Tag Archives: Paul Beaubrun

Morgan Zwerlein’s Rhythm

Feast or famine. Drought or deluge. Peace or pandemonium. We are still standing.

Within the sliver of space where the swinging pendulum pauses, the persistent drum-song of Manman Ayiti reverberates. In the centuries since our ancestors were brought to the island, the rhythms of our roots have not weakened. Through sweet and sorrowful times, this endowment sustains us.  Musicians worldwide benefit from  our lavish legacy. Some give credit where it is due; others play dumb. Their instruments may be shiny and new, but the rhythms that come out are distinctly Haitian. African. Morgan Zwerlein revels in this fact.

Music was our language, when our mouths could not speak what our eyes were forced to see.  Like secret codes, drum beats conveyed our messages. When uttering a word would have cost us our tongues, we communicated openly through music. Slave owners feared the African people’s drum so much that they outlawed the instrument, lest it triggered a revolt.

The esoteric rhythms keep us connected even now.  Drop a Rabòday or a Kongo beat, and stiffs in business suits start to undulate. The reaction is visceral. The drums call. Bodies and souls respond.

Morgan Zwerlein has learned the language of the drums, and speaks it very well. The instant I connected his face to his powerful sound, I was stunned. How on Earth did a blan learn to play like that? Cultural appropriation is one thing, but it’s different with this guy. I had to ask. What exactly are your intentions with these here rhythms? 

Morgan Zwerlein’s photo

The first answer came in 2014—on Haitian soil. I watched and listened as Morgan beat the drum on and off stage. He jumped in the middle of a Rara band in Puits Blain, and played as fiercely as my compatriots. I’ve seen Morgan perform in Brooklyn several times since. He plays like a happy kid in his favorite toy store, smiling like he’d just swallowed something sweet.  I had more questions. He answered them. Click here for the INNERview.

 

A Festival to Remember

frog in aquinI’m a wannabe athlete who loves to run. I’ve earned bragging rights for finishing several half- and full marathons, among them two Marine Corps. When I run, I compete only against my shadow–nobody else’s. I aim to do better than I did in previous races; the end. I don’t get an itch, when other runners leave me behind. As long as I finish—however long it takes me to finish—I win. Big.

katia MCMSome people can hold deep conversations with their buddies while running; I’m not that skilled. When I get out there, the only voice that won’t bug me belongs to Eddy François, the lead singer of Boucan Guinen. He has resided inside my modern-day boombox for years. Boucan Guinen’s Pale Pale  CD pulls me through every finish line.  People laugh and tease me, saying: “You’re still listening to those same four songs?” I don’t answer anymore. They don’t get it.

I saw Boucan Guinen perform in Brooklyn years ago. It was there that I experienced pioneer racine band,  Boukman Eksperyans, for the first and only time. I fantasized about meeting those musicians someday. Someday never came, but Boucan Guinen continued to pull me through more finish lines.

Paul onstageBoukman Eksperyans’s lead’s singer’s son, Paul Beaubrun, now has a band of his own: Zing Experience.

Zing’s message of togetherness by any means continues to gain massive popularity internationally. Paul is a dynamic performer and one of the sweetest people I’ve met. Check out our VoicefromHaiti INNERview.

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Destination Aquin

Two weeks ago, when a friend told me about the festival in Aquin, Haïti, I was intrigued. When I heard that Boukman Eksperyans, Zing, and Boucan Guinen would be there together, I ran a minute-mile to the airport.

100_9590When I reached Haïti and learned that rehearsals would take place at Boukman’s place, I fainted. The first person I saw there was Zing’s first lady, Cynthia C. Beaubrun.

On a front porch not far too away, Zing rehearsed. Everyone was so pleasant. So normal. . .

on hte porch with zingZing continued to rehearse, perfecting their sound.  When rehearsal turned into a laissez-faire jam session, I threw a song; the musicians didn’t let it fall. They played. I sang. We jammed and laughed and jammed some more.

trip to aquinWhen the bus to Aquin arrived the next morning,  I was in shock. Seriously. Guess who was there!

For three and half hours, I rode to Aquin with several of Haïti’s most talented Racine musicians. A dream bigger than the one I dared dream came true.

100_9665Paul Beaubrun and Eddy François sat front and center, laughing and conducting the mayhem. Eddy’s better half and Boucan Guinen singer, Manina François, stayed graceful amid the raucous banter.

Percussionist, Yatande Boko,  kept everyone entertained with his mischievous antics. Bass player, Chico Boyer, sat by a window, looking ever so pensive. Jimmy Daniel drummed on the back of the seat in front of him. Paul’s queen, Cynthia Beaubrun, was serene and composed. I managed to sit still,  even if I was in Racine Heaven.

100_9726We reached the hotel just in time for everyone to get ready for the show.

There was a whole lot of fun going on, but these guys are actually hard-working professionals who happen to love their job so much that it looks like they’re playing. The musicians poured their souls into each number. The crowd cheered.  Zing’s set ended too soon. Boukman was next.

LOLO on stageBoukman Eksperyans was perfection personified. The dancers moved parts of their bodies I didn’t even know existed. Manzè Beaubrun gave the crowd all she had and plenty more.

Boucan was supposed to play immediately after Boukman Eksperyans, but Rain had a different plan. Everyone hurried to the bus.  “I love music, but I’m not ready to be electrocuted for it,” one musician whispered.

It was now 3:00 in the morning. Many of the guys had fallen asleep. It looked as if Boucan Guinen would not perform. But the crowd was relentless.

100_9939Boucan Guinen had to go onstage.  I went with them, naturally. Yatande Boko and Jimmy Daniel blew me away; those drums were like thunder.

The crowd loved Manina, and behaved as if they’d known her for a long time.

When the night sky started to shed tears once again, the musicians’ faces registered fear. Rather than end the show, Paul Beaubrun and his dad joined Boucan Guinen on stage for the ultimate jam session.

100_9980I put my camera down, and bounced. I owed myself a dance, and it was payday.

Boucan might have finished last in the festival, but the people of Aquin won big.  (I did, too.)100_9965

Paul Beaubrun wishes you a Zing New Year

600549_143570629136079_481487199_nWhen I think of the year ending and the new year beginning, I think about people. I see them riding on the subway; I see tears too cold to fall out of eyes; I see mothers holding their children’s hands; I see a man running late for his bus; I see hunger; I see families huddling together, keeping each other warm. I see life.   I hear babies cackle and cry. Lovers hold hands. Others couldn’t be more oblivious. You want to know what I wish for the New Year? It’s simple. I want everyone to find that place inside of inside of them that belongs to no other. I want them to connect or reconnect with the power inside of them. I want them to find peace within.

Happy New “Zing!” Year. We look forward to seeing you often.

Paul Beaubrun

beaubrun singingRead the VoicesfromHaiti INNerview with Paul Beaubrun here. Happy Reading!

Happy New Year, Paul! Looking forward to more jam sessions in 2014

ZING EXPERIENCE

100_8229I surprised my friend Kathy with a visit to her Brooklyn home the other day. She was her usual gracious self. We decided to give her husband, C., an even bigger surprise by showing up at his gig. C. and his gigantic bass were busy accompanying Paul Beaubrun, lead singer of Zing Experience. A gifted percussionist dropped rhythms that bounced off BAM’s mega facade, and rocked Lafayette all the way to Flatbush Avenue.

The venue was packed, but Kathy and I managed to get a good table. I had a perfect view of the back of Paul Beaubrun’s head. His hair falls just above his waist. Nice. But the diri djondjon black rice was too heavenly for me to complain about anything at all. The trio filled the house with a soul-rocking sound.

Paul, Kathy, & katia d. ulysse

Ok. It’s not a great picture. Blame C.’s phone.

As soon as the set ended, C. joined us at our table. Naturally, we gave each other a hard time about nothing major; that’s our thing. When Paul “Zing Experience” Beaubrun walked by, C. called him over for an introduction.  I was a fan in seconds.

I soon learned that Paul’s family and my mother’s were/are practically neighbors. We looked at each other, and we were like family; conversation came easily.

Days later, I met Paul at C.’s recording studio, Kamoken. We listened to a few works-in- progress while we filled up on sushi and brain-busting wasabi.  When another musician dropped by to work, Paul, Kathy, and I went upstairs for the INNERview I had to have for VoicesfromHaiti.

In Kathy’s office, I proceeded to bombard Paul with questions. Throughout the interrogation, the singer remained as humble as he is gorgeous.  We talked, talked, and talked some more.

Kathy had forgotten the story about how Paul and his beautiful wife met. She threw the first question. (FYI: Paul has been happily married for almost a decade now. . .)

100_8243Kathy: Paul, how did you and Cynthia meet again?

Paul to Kathy: We met in NY in May, 2005. Shortly afterwards we decided to form Zing Experience. It was like our first baby together. We loved it as soon as it came into existence.

Katia: What exactly is Zing Experience? (I had heard about the  band. I’d seen posters of Paul all over the place; I knew musicians who said they respect Zing. I know Zing caused certain people to breathe a little heavier. I didn’t know much more).

Paul: It’s a mix of racine, rock, reggae, and many different styles. It is also a spiritual movement. It’s an awakening of the self. Zing Experience is a way to be proud of your culture.

Katia: Why did you call the band Zing Experience? Does Zing have a special meaning?

Paul: We call the band Zing Experience, because I was born a Zing.

Kathy: What’s a Zing?

Katia: Yes, what is a Zing? (I still didn’t have a clue).

Paul: A Zing is a spiritual messenger or a poet. We are born with little dreads on our heads. For example, in Haiti when you go deep in the mountains, they don’t know the word Rasta or Dread. When they see me, they call me Zing.  In the dictionary, Zing is defined as “vitality.” I embody those qualities, I hope: I am an artist with vitality.

Kathy: What inspired you to  become an artist? (She had to have known the answer. Paul practically lives in the studio. I was glad to hear his explanation just the same).

Paul: First all, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I didn’t choose to be a musician, music chose me.

Katia: What instrument do you play? (Still didn’t know).

Paul: My first instrument is the tanbou; now I play the guitar.

Katia: Which of the two instruments do you think helps you express what you feel more?

zing

Paul Beaubrun. Katia D. Ulysse. Big Smiles!

Paul: That’s a good question. I think it depends on the music.  I need to feel the melody. Some songs ask me to use a particular instrument–I let the music guide me. The music tells me which instrument to use. It’s not something that I’m exactly conscious of. I don’t say: Ok I’m going to use this or that instrument. The music controls me. I let the music take me where it wants.

Kathy: Is there one person in particular who inspired you to become a musician?

100_8245Paul: I grew up in a musical family. My father and mother are co-founders of Boukman Eksperyans. So home was music school for me. I didn’t have to do much to get inspired–or inspiration didn’t have to look too far to find me. We’d always been one. My dad–like a great teacher–introduced me to many different artists: Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Marley, Angelique Kidjo–she is amazing! I’ll never forget seeing her in Central Park. When I went out on my own, I had a lot to draw on. Inspiration came from inside and outside. It was everywhere. Inspiration is everywhere.

Kathy: How has the band evolved since 2006?

Paul: Zing is like a baby growing up. I’ve had the chance to meet many great people since we began; learned from them. The band grew musically, intellectually, and spiritually.

Katia: Where do you see Zing Experience in five or ten years from now?

Paul: We’ve paid our dues, and keep paying them. You name the spot, we’ve played there; we took any gig we could get. We played in Haiti from 2007 to 2009. We are planning and seriously hoping to play in Haiti in December, 2013. Most of our dreams have come true. We’ll just keep doing what we do. We’ll continue to grow and bring all that we can to the stage.

Katia: What’s the next big dream for Zing?

Paul: The next big dream is definitely to play in Haiti this December. We are keeping our fingers crossed. Think good thoughts. Send good vibes, and plan to be there when the band plays.

Kathy (with a serious look on her face): One thing I always notice about you is that you invite all kinds of people to play with Zing. That’s a sign of a true artist. You are open to other interpretation and other travels. The more open an artist is, the bigger the experiences; the bigger the feeling. That’s how you grow. Paul has his core band, but other artists come all the time. That’s a cool thing.

Katia: Tell me about your core band.

Paul: The core band is myself, Cynthia Casasola, Chico Boyer, Peter Barr, and Morgan Zwerlein. It’s an honor to play alongside them. We have a certain chemistry. Together we are Zing Experience.

100_8229Katia: When can Zing’s fans expect the next CD. “Project Haiti”–the previous CD–received a ton of attention. People love Zing. When will you give them more?

Paul: We’re planning for 2014. We’re working hard. The music is leading us to a good place. And we’ll bring the CD to you, as soon as the songs are ready.

Kathy: Beside going to Haiti in December, any big dreams you’d like to see come true?

Paul: We really, really want to go to Haiti in December. Like I said,  send us good vibes. That might be the biggest dream of all.

Katia: Thank you so much for the INNERview. I think I’ve been Zingged. I can’t wait to hear you play again. I wish you much success for years to come.

Paul (big smile on his face):  Thank you for interviewing me. It’s been a pleasure. I appreciate the fact that people actually care about Zing. My dreams keep coming true.

High-fives went flying all over the place.  It was time to get back to the business of making music. Another artist stopped by. A mini-jam session ensued. Paul drummed with his hands on his thighs. His head swayed from side to side. A melody from faraway places reached out to him. Soon it would take a form we may hear. That was just a tiny taste of what it means to have the Zing Experience.

VoicesfromHaiti. Nou bèl. E nou la.
We are beautiful. And we are here!