After a decade of performance and research of Haitian art music, New York City-based cellist Diana Golden releases Tanbou Kache (Hidden Drum), an album that celebrates Haiti’s rich and fascinating traditions and outlines the stylistic and chronological trajectory of key composers within this tradition from the 20th century to the present. Recorded with pianist Shawn Chang, the recording highlights Haitian cello and piano music by Julio Racine, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Jean “Rudy” Perrault, Justin Élie, Werner Jaegerhuber, Frantz Casséus, and Carmen Brouard.
Petite SuiteWerner Jaegerhuber
|05||IV. Tema contrapunctistica|
IV. Tema contrapunctistica
Suite haïtienneFrantz Casséus
Sonate à CynthiaJulio Racine
|11||I. Allegro Spirito|
I. Allegro Spirito
|14||Femiel from One Loss Plus|
Femiel from One Loss Plus
Cellist Diana Golden releases Tanbou Kache, an album celebrating Haiti’s rich and fascinating art music traditions. Tanbou Kache (Hidden Drum) outlines the stylistic and chronological trajectory of key composers within this tradition from the 20th century to the present. Recorded with pianist Shawn Chang, the album highlights cello and piano music by Jean “Rudy” Perrault, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Julio Racine, Carmen Brouard, Frantz Casséus, Werner Jaegerhuber, and Justin Élie.
In 2011, Golden began working for a music center for Boston’s Haitian community, teaching cello students who had left Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. This experience inspired her nearly decade-long interest in Haitian art music. She taught in Jacmel, Haiti during the summer of 2012, and devoted her doctoral research at Rutgers University to the history of Haitian art music.
Golden says, “Haiti has had a rich and fascinating tradition of art music creation for hundreds of years. We hope that this album will further accessibility to this unique and fascinating repertoire, enabling exploration and enjoyment of it by scholars, performers, and listeners alike.”
Through his work with publisher Carl Fischer and concert tours of Haiti and the Caribbean, pianist and composer Justin Élie (1883 – 1931) became one of the most renowned Haitian musicians of his time. His use of indigenous Arawak themes and Haitian folk music showed his embrace of non-European musical aesthetics in crafting an authentic Haitian compositional voice. When Élie moved to New York City in 1922, he tapped into American audiences’ interest in the exotic and evoked impressions of Haitian landscapes with works such as Légende créole, based on the Haitian children’s song “Zonbi bann mannan.”
Composer Werner Jaegerhuber (1900 – 1953) left Haiti for Germany as the U.S. occupation of Haiti began in 1915, but then returned to Haiti in 1937 to avoid persecution in Germany. His vast legacy includes inspiring ethnographers and ethnomusicologists by his transcriptions of Haitian folk melodies, becoming the first to study the musical structure and lyrics of Vodou songs, spurring a wave of Haitian chamber music compositions in the 1950s, mentoring the next generation of Haitian composers, and destigmatizing traditional Vodou songs by incorporating them into instrumental art music. Though many of his other compositions are folkloric or Neoclassical in style, Jaegerhuber’s Petite Suite in C minor is among his baroque-influenced compositions.
A renowned classical guitarist in the last third of the 20th century, Frantz Casséus (1915 – 1993) sought to show Haitian musical style through his compositions and performances as well as incorporating influences from Caribbean, jazz, and European classical music. In Suite haïtienne, Casséus’ invented melodies include “Fi nan bwa” and “Mèsi bon Dye,” which became a hit through its interpretation by Harry Belafonte accompanied by Casséus himself. The piece uses the cinquillo rhythm emblematic of the Haitian méringue.
A pianist, pedagogue, and leading composer of the Haitian diaspora, Carmen Brouard (1909 – 2005) Brouard helped found the Montreal archive Société de recherche et de diffusion de la musique haïtienne for the promotion and study of Haitian music. Brouard’s music is Romantic, folkloric, and rhythmic. In Duo Sentimental, clashing episodic sections portray the composer’s various cultural influences, from quintessentially Haitian pentatonic scales to the opening theme’s twelve-tone row hidden by tonal harmonizations. By the end of the piece, these elements are combined harmoniously, showing Brouard’s embrace of her own divergent cultural traditions.
Conductor, composer, and flutist Julio Racine (b. 1945) and co-author Karine Margron published their anthology of Haitian folk songs in 2013 to document and share the heritage of Haitian music with future generations. Racine’s music is characterized by the development of Vodou rhythms, modal scales, and syncopated, jazzy harmonies and dissonances. Racine is twice represented on this album, with Casséus’ Suite haïtienne which Racine arranged for cello and piano, and his Sonate à Cynthia pour violoncelle et piano, a work inspired by imagining the choreography of local folk dancers.
Violinist, educator, composer, and social activist Daniel Bernard Roumain (b. 1970) is an Institute Professor of Practice at Arizona State University. Roumain’s compositions draw inspiration from civil rights themes and musical influences of hip hop, jazz, folk, Caribbean, and electronic music. He is also known for his large-scale music events in public spaces, including One Loss Plus, a meditative, multimedia work for violin, piano, electronics, and video from which Femiel derives.
Composer and violinist Jean “Rudy” Perrault (b. 1961) often finds inspiration in contemporary humanist movements. His Brother Malcolm... paraphrases an imaginary conversation between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on Barack Obama's inauguration to the presidency. Still Around paraphrases Ruth Schmidt-Bauemler’s poem by the same name, as the order of pitches in the theme corresponds to their names: R-Ut-H, S-C-H, etc. The cryptogram is a nod to the spirit of the works on this CD, which all incorporate a subtly hidden Haitian dimension.
-- Claude Dauphin and Diana Golden
Editing, mixing, and mastering: Ryan Streber
Producer: Diana Golden
Studio Producer: Gregory K. Williams
Packaging design: Jessica Slaven
“Celebration” artwork: Gina Samson (media acrylic and mixed media collage on board)
Liner notes: Claude Dauphin
Translation: Adele Golden
Editing: Céline Boulben, Adele Golden (French); Rebecca Wallen, Diana Golden (English)
Photography: Pierre Lidar
Haiti, impoverished by unrelenting disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes and depredating exploitation from within and abroad – has nevertheless maintained an extraordinarily rich artistic heritage; vibrant, joyous, unconquerable. I’ve been there and experienced it first-hand. So has New York-based cellist Diana Golden, teaching in the art-city of Jacmel. She’s also conducted research at Montreal’s Société de recherche et de diffusion de la musique haïtienne.
Golden explains that the CD’s title, meaning “hidden drums,” refers to the Vodou drums accompanying traditional folk songs. The eight pieces, each lasting between five and 13 minutes, vary stylistically from the neo-Baroque Petite Suite for solo cello by Werner Jaegerhuber (1900-1953) to the minimalist meditations of Femiel, part of an 80-minute work for electronic instruments by Daniel Bernard Roumain (b.1970).
I particularly enjoyed the distinctively Haitian compositions. The bittersweet Légende créole by Justin Élie (1883-1931) incorporates a children’s song about hide-and-seek. Affecting, soulful, folkloric melodies fill the Suite haïtienne by Frantz Casséus (1915-1993), originally for guitar, here arranged by Julio Racine (b.1945). In Racine’s own Sonate à Cynthia (2014), two rhythmic Allegros bracket the pentatonic motifs of the lyrical Cantilena. Carmen Brouard (1909-2005) spent her last 29 years in Montreal where she helped found the Société mentioned above. Her Duo Sentimental pits Haitian pentatonics against a twelve-tone row, ending in a harmonious “Amoroso."
Golden’s closely-miked, dark-hued tone and expressive phrasing, aided by Taiwanese-Canadian pianist Shawn Chang, make a strong case for the unfairly neglected music of this unfairly neglected country.
— Michael Schulman, 12.04.2020
In presenting a collection of classical works by twentieth and twenty-first century Haitian composers, cellist Diana Golden and pianist Shawn Chang provide a public service to both the artists involved and listeners who heretofore might have had little exposure to the composers in question. In being exposed to material representative of Haiti's art music traditions, said listener not only gains insight into the country's musical culture but also spends a thoroughly rewarding sixty-six minutes in the company of Golden and Chang. Of course they too benefit from the project in showing themselves to be interpreters of the first rank.
Golden is eminently qualified to take on the project. Though she's NYC-based, her doctoral research at Rutgers University focused on Haitian art music. In 2011, she began working at a Boston music centre with cello students who had left the country after the 2010 earthquake and a year later taught at the École de Musique Dessaix-Baptiste in Jacmel, Haiti. Through such endeavours she discovered that many Haitian composers' works have been neither performed nor recorded and so she and Chang decided to create the album to bring recognition to the artists and introduce the public to their compositions. Tanbou Kache (Hidden Drum) was chosen, by the way, as the title because it references the Vodou drum part that appears in traditional Haitian folk songs and that was transcribed by ethnographer Werner Jaegerhuber, whose efforts inspired generations of Haitian composers.
Space limitations allow for only a modest amount of detail to appear here about the recording; included with the release, however, are liner notes by Dr. Claude Dauphin, a Haitian music scholar, that provide extensive background. As mentioned, composers from both centuries are represented, with material by the influential early figure Justin Élie (1883-1931) followed by the next generation's Jaegerhuber (1900-1953), Frantz Casséus (1915-1993), and Carmen Brouard (1909-2005); completing the portrait are pieces by Julio Racine (b. 1945), Daniel Bernard Roumain (b. 1970), and Jean “Rudy” Perrault (b. 1961). A mix of standalone pieces and multi-movement works makes for a satisfying programme.
Originally composed for violin and piano and based on the folkloric children's song “Zonbi bann mannan,” Élie's five-minute appetizer Légende créole engages with affectingly melancholic melodies and a playful game of hide-and-seek between the instruments at its centre. Jaegerhuber's four-movement Petite Suite for solo cello follows, its baroque stylings strongly suggesting a J.S. Bach influence. As with other pieces on the recording, Petite Suite reminds us that Haitian composers don't create in a vacuum but are influenced by artists in the Western classical tradition too. After a scene-setting opening movement (not given a title but nonetheless acting as a prelude), the three others are concise contrapuntal meditations that capture Golden traversing the cello's upper and lower registers and ostensibly conducting an engrossing dialogue with herself.
Written in 1953 for solo guitar and performed here in an arrangement by Racine, Casséus's four-part Suite haïtienne comes next, with Golden giving expressive voice to a plethora of folkloric melodies and its energetic third part incorporating the cinquillo rhythm (five syncopated beats in a duple meter) associated with the Haitian méringue. Racine appears again, this time with his own Sonate à Cynthia (2014), a three-part work dedicated to his daughter and structured with two frenetic allegros framing a plaintive cantilena. Born in Port-au-Prince and a Montreal resident since 1977, Brouard is represented by Duo Sentimental, a tempestuous single-movement setting that sees twelve-tone rows and Haitian pentatonic scales reconciled, the gesture symbolic of the composer's own embrace of multiple stylistic traditions and cultural influences.
Rounding out the release are Femiel by Roumain and two by Perrault. The former, which derives from the eighty-minute multimedia work One Loss Plus, features Golden combining pizzicato and bowing in a five-minute piece whose sombre quality's intensified by sparse piano accompaniment and an insistent cello soliloquy. Perrault used the conceit of an imaginary talk between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X about Obama's ascendancy as a springboard for Brother Malcolm… How precisely the musical design corresponds to that idea might be open to interpretation, but there's no discounting the forcefulness of its expression. Against dreamy piano cascades, Golden unleashes an impassioned outpouring, the instruments' pairing perhaps suggesting the animated to-and-fro between the speakers as they discuss the ex-president's tenure.
Listeners previously unexposed to Haitian classical works will find no difficulty warming to the material when melody and emotional expression are abundant and when the performers amplify those aspects so powerfully. Chang's playing is sterling throughout, Golden's ravishing. Collectively Tanbou Kache provides an illuminating overview of the country's classical music repertoire, and one imagines a second volume could easily be produced were Golden and Chang disposed to keep the project going.
— Ron Schepper, 10.30.2020
The most remarkable piece on Diana Golden's recital of original music, transcriptions, and arrangements by 20th- and 21st-century Haitian composers is Werner Jaegerhuber’s Petite Suite in C minor for solo cello. It starts out as the reminiscence of a Bach Suite from a 20th-century perspective. The opening “Prelude” explores the same limited registers as the early Suites and just when you are convinced this retro Bach won't work, you realize how engrossing the cellist's sound is, and you realize it's not really Bach after all. The “Menuetto” is the same but maybe as if it had been inverted, suggesting the presence of other, eerie voices. After an Allegro grows increasingly complex in its handling of Bachian technical quirks while sounding new lyrical notes in unexpected high reaches, the concluding “Tema contrapunctistica” plods along wonderully like E-flat major yearning to be D major. Played with eloquent command by Golden, it's 15 minutes of pure delight, even if Bach didn't write it.
The other most remarkable pieces are Daniel Bernard Roumain's transcendental five-minute excerpt from his 80-minute One Loss Plus meditation and Jean Rudy Perrault's imaginary conversation between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on Barack Obama's inauguration to the presidency, which has a calm, inspirational tone that couldn't have come at a better time.
The many other lovely things here include Justin Elie's Legendecreole, which moves effortlessly high on the A string, languorous like Faure'sElegie, and the four movements of Frantz Casseus' little Suite hai'tienne, high- lighted by a wonderfully incongruous jazz riff, a sweet melancholy pastoral lyric, and a charming characteristic dance.
— LV, 11.06.2020
Tanbou Kache means "hidden drum" in Haitian Creole. The term was originally applied to the music of composer Werner Jaegerhuber but is relevant to several of the composers included on this recital album by cellist Diana Golden and pianist Shawn Chang. Although the music is largely in conventional European forms, there's an interesting layer of hidden African rhythm, especially in the piano part, that appears subtly and intermittently. This is not the deep fusion of Villa-Lobos, or even of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, but it's intriguing on its terms. The project has the feel of a personal enthusiasm of Golden, with several pieces having to be transcribed for the cello. Jaegerhuber's Petite Suite pour violoncelle is an authentic cello work, but it doesn't really fit the theme: it is a purely Bachian counterpoint exercise. Listen to the Suite haïtienne of Frantz Casséus for a stronger taste: the work was originally written for guitar and was recorded by the composer on the Folkways label in the 1950s. There are also works by members of the Haitian diaspora and by composers born in the U.S., reflecting a wide range of influences but still distinctive. Thus, the program covers several generations of music-making and gives a flavor of a tradition that will be unknown to most listeners.
— James Manheim, 12.01.2020
One of the very few positive developments to come out of the era of western imperialism was the spread of classical music around the globe. One of the most fascinating and lyrical albums of chamber music from over the past several months is cellist Diana Golden and pianist Shawn Chang’s collection of works by Haitian composers, Tanbou Kache, streaming at Bandcamp.
The title means “hidden drum” in kreyol. Just as the clave is ubiquitous in latin music, the vodou drum rhythm – a similarly African import – persists in much of Haitian music, whether outright or implied. As is the case with many global traditions where the culture has been repressed by tyrannical regimes, Haitian popular song is ripe with signification and subtle political subtext. How much of that translates to the compositions here?
As you might imagine from the instrumentation, much of this is on the somber side. The duo open with early 20th century composer Justin Élie’s Légende Créole, a somber neo-romantic piece originally for violin and piano with a fleetingly blithe interlude midway through. Golden takes her time expressively with the chromatics and minor-key solemnity of Werner Jaegerhuber’s Petite Suite for Solo Cello. While it’s another early 20th century work, it draws a straight line back to Bach, in terms of melody if not thematic development.
Contemporary composer Julio Racine’s arrangement of 20th century classical guitarist Frantz Casséus’ Suite Haïtienne makes a return to sober, spacious minor-key neo-romanticism with dark folk tinges in the opening movement. Golden and Chang wistfully parse the second movement before Chang picks up with a merengue-inspired bounce in the third and in the vigorous conclusion, originally a hit for Harry Belafonte with the composer on guitar.
Carmen Brouard, one of the prime movers in 20th century Haitian composition, died at 96 in 2005. Sadly, it wasn’t until she moved to Montreal that she began to earn recognition beyond the land of her birth. Her Duo Sentimental, a song without words, alternates between a distantly acerbic, dancing anthemic sensibiilty and Brahmsian familiarity.
Julio Racine is represented by his Sonate à Cynthia, written in 2014 and the most recent piece here. The simmering, Piazzolla-esque passion of the opening movement gives Chang a welcome moment to come to the forefront, while Golden’s plaintive phrasing takes over at the end. The second has a broodingly chromatic, anthemic sway; Golden’s trills fuel the coda at the end. It’s arguably the album’s most memorable work.
The duo follow with a moody, minimalist, bluesy Daniel Bernard Roumain miniature and conclude the record with two works by another contemporary composer, Jean “Rudy” Perrault. Still Around, for solo cello has more distant Bach echoes than the first solo cello piece here.
Brother Malcolm… for cello and piano imagines Martin Luther King and Malcolm X discussing Barack Obama’s inauguration via a sternly crescendoing, Romantic trajectory, and what seems like very guarded triumph.
Beyond the sheer emotional impact of the music, this album has enormous historical value. If the rest of the Haitian classical repertoire is anything like this, it should be vastly better known.
— delarue, 12.23.2020