Yes, I said it -KOMPA needs a makeover ASAP. In fact, it has long been overdue; it reaches the breaking point of boredom. Almost everybody is now playing the same thing and sounding the same. Many are asking, why is that?
KONPA artists, for the most part, are known for their conservativeness and narrow-mindedness, could that be the reason? Also, could it be that the majority of them don’t have the education background to better appreciate music and the historical knowledge of music to research and bring new materials to our musical mosaic?
As the market is changing, so should our music. In the United States, for instance, the music industry is constantly changing. Every 10 years or so, one can expect to experience a change in direction, a breakthrough or something new to go mainstream. Had it not been for JAZZ and BLUES of the 1940s and DISCO of the 70s and 80s, we would have not had the today’s R&B, one of the most popular Afro-American musical genres as we speak. All that stemmed from the competitive nature of the market environment.
The players in the American Music Industry are very aware of the negative impact of sameness and stagnancy on the market; they tend to stall market progress and development. So in such an ever-changing market environment, should you want to maintain a competitive advantage, you have got to keep moving with the flow and rhythm of the market. Otherwise, you will be left behind, and you will become obsolete overnight.
In the Haitian music environment, CARIMI is now testing the market with a new buzz in sound –a mixture of Kompa/R&B/Techno -which seems to be catching steam. So I hope they stay steady and put the right marketing behind it to force the market to follow the trend. They seem to be doing just that as evidenced by this simple observation: Now all these newly-emerged bands out of NY want to sound like them. Let’s see how far and in what direction the CARIMI experience is taking the market.
In the 1980s, when ZOUK was invading our musical sovereignty, when it almost had KONPA on its knees, it was not because it was foreign; it was, rather, because it was different and revolutionary. In reality, ZOUK was and continue to be KONPA on diet, a sexy version of the hardcore KONPA we used to be playing back then, before the introduction and marketing of our KONPA LOVE. So during its inception in the 1980s, it was looking and sounding luscious and appealing. Therefore, everybody, including our KONPA artists, wanted a piece of it. Had it not been for the combativeness of radio hosts such as FELIX LAMY of RADIO NATIONALE (a great Haitian cultural patriot; peace be upon him), today, KONPA would have probably been on the shelf somewhere in our music conservatory; we could have been playing ZOUK.
Despite the fights to rescue, protect and defend our musical sovereignty, the impact and influence of ZOUK was so huge that it did not back away without leaving a dent on our market. Yes, the danger was contained, but it led KONPA to a new and revolutionary direction. The change could be felt in the emergence of an array of new bands and solo artists – ZIN, ZENGLEN (the Gary Didier Perez version), PHANTOMS, PAPASH, TRIOMEX, ZEKLE, DIGITAL EXPRESS, SWEET MICKY, FASAD, SKANDAL, TANTAN, ETC… –to which the name new generation Konpa was going to be credited. Then, the generational demarcation line was drawn on the sand. The market was then divided between the OLD SCHOOL KONPA and the NEW GENERATION KONPA.
KONPA has traveled a long way and been through many battles. And throughout its journey it has never stopped transforming, which is the reason why it still exists today. I am for a makeover of our music while keeping the fundamentals untouched. We should not and must not be afraid of transformation. Time is doomed to change and transformation, so must be anything and everything we do in life, including KONPA. Giving a facelift to our music does not mean that it will go away and that it will be substituted with something else. If we want KONPA to survive the first half of this century, we must not be resisting the change that is now being felt brought to us by such bands as CARIMI and T-Vice. We cannot stand before the change of time. It is either that or else.