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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 5:54 pm Post subject: TI CLAUDE MARCELIN! Reply with quote

Claude Marcelin
Interview conducted by Patrick Desvarieux

"Ti" Claude Marcelin is a legend in the Haitian music industry. As a composer/guitarist for classic bands Gypsies, D.P Express, Zéklè, Caribbean Sextet and now Djakout Mizik, he is regarded as one of the best of all time. In this installment of Legends Press Conference, we interview the icon. Enjoy.

Q: When and how did you get started in Haitian music?

A: I lived on the same block as the "Difficiles de Petion-Ville". That is also where the guys from the band like Henri Celestin, "Porky", Robert Martino and all the others used to practice. I also must say that my interest in music also came from my grandmother who was a pianist. I have a bunch of poets in my family. Robert Martino was my idol, and I was following his career and playing style closely.

I used to write songs and give them to the guys from "Difficiles". Anyway when Robert left Haiti for New York to continue with the "Gypsies" there, Pierrot Al-Khal called me and asked me to take the musical direction of the band. I knew Robert’s playing style so well because I idolized him that I could play the same style. I was learning how to play the guitar as I went along.

Q: How have you been able to last so long in the business?

A: Discipline. There are certain traps to stay away from like drugs and alcohol. You always have to keep working hard even if you’re on top. You must also be humble. You also have to understand the business. It’s a profession that a lot of people don’t respect. It’s not easy. You have to know how not to let negativity affect you when it comes. A lot of people don’t understand our importance. They don’t know that a country without culture is nothing.

Q: Do you think musicians are still treated like nothing in our culture?

A: (Emotional, but calm) After all these years in the business, I’ve made a name for myself. People can’t disrespect me anymore, but what about the musician who’s just getting started in the business? They used to treat me like nothing when I first started in the business.

Q: Name some of your other favorite musicians besides Robert?

A: Dadou is a guy I admire a lot. Guys like Joel and Mushi Widmaier, Reginald Policard, Tony Jean Baptiste. There are so many.

Q: Name your favorite "TI Claude" composition of all-time and why?
A: Wow. It’s tough. It’s as if you’re asking me which one of four kids is my favorite? (Laughs) There are some songs in my career that have left a signature on my work. "Pa pran contact" from my D.P Express days was a revelation in Haitian music. In Compas, you used to hear the same group of guitar solos over and over. I broke that trend in "Pa pran contact". It was free variation on the guitar. It opened a lot of doors in Haitian music.

Q: How did you feel about replacing Robert Martino in the group "Gypsies", and how were you received by the fans?

A: The Haitian public has always been kind to me. I’m very grateful for that. I want to thank them sincerely.

Q: Why did you go to D.P Express instead of Scorpio when both bands changed their names?

A: "Difficiles" had gone overseas for a tour. I could not go with them because my parents thought that I was too young at the time. When I stayed behind, that’s exactly when Pierrot Al-Khal asked me to join "Gypsies". After three years, Robert Martino came back from New York with his whole crew, and they were talking about reuniting under another name. Don’t forget also that at the time, Pierrot was Robert’s stepbrother, so when I saw what was happening, I stepped away from the band.

I was not comfortable with the situation. Sinsin who also started with D.P Express before they recorded their first album, left the group to go join Robert just before they formed "Scorpio". "Difficiles" in turn saw that I wasn’t playing with anyone, so they hired me to play with them just before creating D.P Express. It was like an exchange.

Q: How did you feel when they used to say "Ti Claude nan toute Jazz"?

A: I don’t know why they were saying that. While they were saying that, I spent twelve years in Caribbean Sextet. (Laughs) I’m actually one of the most stable people in a band today. I play a lot of different styles unlike the majority of other musicians who play the style that their band requires them to play. Zekle was Rock, Caribbean was Latin, D.P Express and Djakout Mizik are pure Compas. These people couldn’t find a style to label me, therefore they said that.

Q: Tell us about your D.P Express days?

A: It was all positive success all the way.

Q: Why did you leave?

A: After three years, I was tired. D.P was so popular that we played every night. I also had gone studying in Jamaica.

Q: How was your Zekle experience?

A: (Gets excited) Zekle was something totally different. I learnt a lot from the Widmaier brothers in terms of different approach to composing a song. In terms of arranging a song and also about radio I learnt a lot from them. Lyrically they had Ralph Boncy who was a genius. Zekle broke up because they couldn’t keep up with the public demand for the band.

Q: How did you end up joining and staying with Djakout Mizik?

A: Djakout was a band that started with Gracia Delva. You know what Gracia represents as a singer. (laughs) When he left, it created a huge void in the band. I don’t know the story, but I have the impression that he left Djakout unexpectedly. The guys brought me into the band and here we are now.

Q: What do you see in the near future for Djakout Mizik?

A: (Excitedly) If what I see so far is any indication, it’s going to be big. I’m even surprised at times at what we’re doing musically.

Q: Tell us about the new Djakout CD?

A: It’s basically done. It’s just a matter of deciding which songs we’re going to put on there.

Q: Tell us about your upcoming solo album?

A: It’s coming out on Crossover Records this year. It’s a very good project with Eric Charles, Pouchon, from Djakout Mizik, Ansyto Mercier and more.

Q: How did the "Take 5" project come along and what can we expect from it?

A: It has a lot to do with String’s success. It was an album that I wanted to do for a long time ever since I participated on Top Vice’s second album. One of my two compositions on that record entitled "Pina Colada" had that kind of flavor. People were not interested in that type of project back then. After the reception that the public gave to Strings, I decided that it was time for me to do "Take 5". So far, I see that they love it.

Q: What do you say to those who might say it sounds just like Strings?

A: You will hear those comments, but if you listen to both records carefully, you will see that they have nothing to do with the other. I can understand why they would compare Strings and Take 5 because the inspiration is the same. We have another "Take 5" album coming out in December that sounds totally different than the current one. It will be released on the Nouvel Jenerasyon label.

Q: Please give us your opinion on the following people. Robert Martino?

A: He’s my idol. He’s the reason why I’m playing the guitar today. I have a lot of admiration for him. He’s one of the biggest Haitian artists of all time.

Q: Dadou Pasquet?

A: A monument. I did not follow him early in my career, but I found out about him later on through his work in Tabou. I’ve been following his work ever since, because he always has a message in everything that he does.

Q: Eddy Wooley (D.P Express)?

A: A brother. One of the better maestros that I’ve ever had the chance to play with. He knows the business very well. I appreciate him a lot.

Q: Ti Plume (Ambassadeurs)?

A: I know his work less than the other guys because when he was happening, I really wasn’t listening to the Ambassadeurs. You have to understand that I was living in a Difficiles/Gypsies neighborhood I learnt about his work when I got older. I’ve also played with him. He’s not only a great artist, he’s also an actor on the stage. (Laughs)

Q: Who’s the best guitarist out of the three?

A: I don’t really like to get into these things. Robert Martino is an excellent soloist, but he’s not that good as a rhythm guitarist. Dadou also has his positives and negatives. I don’t mean to flatter myself when I say that I am a more complete guitar player than both of them. Dadou might be a better soloist than me, Robert might be a better composer than me, but I’m a more complete guitar player because I try to do a little bit of everything. You also forgot to mention two guitarists whom I have a lot of respect for. Jean Claude Jean (Tabou) and Sinsin (Gypsies). I respect rhythm guitarists just as much as I respect soloists.

Q: A lot of kids are following their parents into the Haitian music business these days. Can we expect a second generation of Marcelins?

A: (Excited) I have two boys. (Laughs) I just bought one a guitar, and the other asked me for a keyboard. Let’s wait and see. They’re always curious about what I’m doing when it comes to music. They even know the words to "Ma seule folie" by heart.

Q: Will you be retiring soon?

A: You can never retire from music. As long as the brain still works, music will still be part of your life.

Q: How would you like to be remembered when you retire from the business?

A: (Thinks) I don’t know what to say. I’ve never worked just so people can say good things about me. I play music because it’s something that I love. A true musician doesn’t play music for money, girls or fame. They play it for the art and for the love of it. If they speak well of me, I will be happy, if they don’t, so be it.

Q: Clear the rumor about the Scorpio Carnival song "Ou Kache Nan Corridor that was a big hit in the seventies. Was it about you?

A: (Laughs out loud) Let me tell you the story behind that. Pierrot Kersaint (percussionist for D.P Express now deceased) and I had just finished rehearsing our Carnival at D.P Express headquarters. We stopped at a dry cleaner to pick up his clothes. At the time, Scorpio used to rehearse behind a store owned by Pierrot Al-Khal (their manager) called Playboy. The store was located right next to the dry cleaner.

I was sitting in the car waiting for Kersaint, and at the same time, I could hear the guys rehearsing their carnival. Keep in mind that at the time, the rivalry between D.P Express and Scorpio was extremely intense. Anyway, some Scorpio fans saw me sitting in the car, so they thought that I was there spying on the band. (Laughs).

That is how that carnival song came up. There was never any dog involved like they say in the song. They just spiced it up. I remember going to the movies with my girlfriend once, sitting behind us were a bunch of Scorpio fans that recognized me. They started singing that song throughout the movie. It got so bad that my girlfriend and I left the movie theater.

Q: Any final words for the fans?

A: This new millenium will be Djakout’s. I believe that sincerely. This is a band that I really believe will take control of the market real soon.

Phone: (646) 529-5735
E-Mail: Kompamagazine@gmail.com

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