When I told Val that her music reminded me of those avant garde surrealists, here’s what she said:
Dali and Warhol were awesome. They didn’t waste time with the bland stuff. This is what I try to do with my music. I’ve got to move the sound to another level. Those Haitian surrealists are advanced in the same way. They allow art to manifest through them. I understand where they’re coming from. I appreciate people who make room inside of themselves to let art just flow. Having ‘the gift’ can be overwhelming; it can be burdensome. If you are not ready to accept and let it flow through you, it can destroy you. You can’t fear being possessed by art. You’ve got to allow yourself to fall into it. You have to trust the creative spirit that will inhabit and claim you. That spirit will lead you where you are supposed to be. Real art expresses itself through the artist—not the other way around. It enhances our collective experience as human beings.
When did you realize you would be the sound artist you are today?
I had no idea I would do what I am doing now. My family put me in Sacré Coeur– a prestigious catholic school, in a ritzy-bourgeois area. I wore a uniform, you know. I wore ribbons and barrettes in my hair. But I never liked those things. I never cared for those perfect braids. They restricted me, and I needed to feel total freedom. See my hair now! That’s total freedom. I hate to carry things on my head, including hair.
I had to follow the strict school rules back then, so I did. When I strayed from those rules, my parents’ matinèt was there to turn my skin red. M te pran kont baton nan bouda m. We all got our share of the matinèt. That’s how things were back then.
When music found me, I was about five. In the area near Fontamara where I grew up, rara bands were always practicing–perfecting their craft. The sound would echo throughout the neighborhood. I recall one time in particular, hearing a band in the distance. The deep banbou bass caused me to have sort of out-of-body experience. Something otherworldly had taken hold on me. I remember choosing not to resist. I knew, also, that this thing—whatever it was—had its origin in the spirit realm. Something inside me had left the physical space where I had been, and joined the band several miles away. I was conscious of travelling without moving. Music—like an alarm clock—rang endlessly inside of me. I could not shut it off. I became obsessed with sound: the way a spoon would land on a wooded table fascinated me; people’s voices; the marketwomen’s singsong as they advertised their wares.
It was as if music had always known my name; it knew it would claim me one day. Sounds called out to me. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, sounds persisted and shadowed me, always offering a vehicle to some place new. I just flowed with it.
How do you describe your music?
When I do shows, people try to put a label on what I do. People suggest titles for my work. They want to know what I call it. The rhythms I work with are Haitian, without a doubt. They are African. Also, I use all electronic instruments. That’s why I call the music Afro Electronica. I use these electronic tools, but the music is spiritual—something you might hear at church, or in any other religious ceremony. It’s the kind of sound that gives your spirit freedom to roam. The sound is definitely on a frequency people are not used to hearing. But it speaks to them. It takes them to another sphere.
What emotions do you experience when you perform?
It would be impossible to explain how I feel when I perform. When I do what I do, I’m like a functioning vessel. I am like a machine. There’s no time to think about anything else. I am the tool. I am not even conscious of what I do. I am not dealing with my physical body. I become a clear channel for the sound. The work would not get done otherwise. The inspiration would not manifest. If the individual that I am were ever present during a performance, I would censor it too much. I let go. I give in to whatever comes. If I focused on what I feel, it would become personal, intentional. I’m not interested in being in such a space. It’s completely about being in the beautiful, surreal, ethereal. The music is not about me at all. It’s something that I am fortunate enough to have flow through me.
It’s about being in the moment–that moment when the music has total control of my senses. When I’m on stage giving into that moment, everything else is an illusion. Everything exists within the space where the consciousness becomes one with inspiration. The main goal for me is to tap into that flow, and then go with it. I let it take me where it wants. I am not afraid of the outcome. I trust it will take the audience to a good place.
Do you recall the moment when you became Val Inc?
Beyond that awakening when I was 5 years old, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when Val Inc came into being. The rara bands’ instruments had called out to me in loud, urgent voices. Answering them was the only thing to do.