KENBEM - available on iTunes March 31
Happy St Patrick's Day - Ayibobo to Papa Damballah!
During the confinement, in NY, I thought of all those who were risking their lives to keep us safe…and more especially of the Haitian community. So many of the health workers, caregivers and other civil servants were Haitian, some from extremely modest backgrounds, who left their home to create a better life for themselves and their children. The one thing that kept them going day after day was their FAITH. I wrote the lyrics to "#KENBEM"
in my “diaspora Creole” for them. It means “HOLD ON” and implies that the Angels and the Spirits are near and working hand in hand to protect and guide us.
There has been a schism between Vaudou and the church since the Haitian Revolution when the slaves defeated the French and created a Haitian State in 1804. Blaming the uprising on Vaudou, Rome refused to send priests to Haiti and the principles of Vaudou and the Christian church merged , resulting in the “syncretism” which is found in Haitian Vaudou. Vaudou spirits such as Erzuli and Damballah found their counterparts in the Christian symbols such as the Virgin Mary and St Patrick and Christian prayers were added to the Vaudou ceremonies. As a result, many Haitians considered themselves Christians while continuing to embrace their ancestral religion and beliefs.
Throughout colonization and until today, the Church and governments have sought to diminish the African influence of Vaudou and prohibit its practice throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. It has been vilified and mislabeled in an effort to maintain the division between the Church and Vaudou, and even outlawed in certain countries.
When I contacted Rolf and Graham’s management to request authorization to cover and adapt “You Raise me Up” into Creole for my next album, I never suspected that a new world would open up for me through my exchanges with Brendan Graham, the amazingly talented writer and lyricist who penned the lyrics of the song and the “The Whitest Flower” Through his words and his book I came to discover that the Irish suffered a fate not dissimilar to the Vaudouisants, when the Church imposed itself in Ireland, forbidding the practice of their ancestral religion and even their language. As we communicated, we exchanged thoughts on spirituality and I realized how despite apparent differences in cultures, histories etc, throughout the world, our hearts beat as one when speaking of things truly spiritual and that the religions, cultures, races are not really so far apart…if only we choose to open our minds and hearts to others’ journeys.
Our children must grow up with the knowledge that they have a right to embrace their culture even if they choose to follow the Christian faith. For only through knowledge can we illuminate the darkness and truly discover what Vaudou truly has to offer.
I hope that this song will bring joy to my “Creole community” and that the words will touch their hearts. I hope that hearing this beautiful song in yet a different arrangement will touch those who already love it and are happy to hear it again.
Thank you Brendan for your support and kindness.. Thank you Rolf for your lovely melody and to my co- producers Chico Boyer and Cheff Loncher for their inspiration and talent in making this new version.
Thank you Philippe Pierre (Pianist) for your unique interpretation and incredible sensitivity.
Thanks also to Jonathan Platt for his support and ideas and to the whole promo team, Hip Video, Distiller Promo, Norena Barbella to name just a few.