Mélissa Laveaux emerged in the mid-2000s with music characterized by an eclectic mix of folk-pop, rock, and blues, with nods to her Haitian heritage. She was born January 9, 1985 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to Haitian parents, but grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. In 2006 she recorded and self-produced her debut record, Camphor & Copper, a multilinguistic work that put her fluid guitar playing and rich voice out front. Alongside original compositions, the album included covers of Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay" and Eartha Kitt's "I Want to Be Evil." In the wake of the record's release she moved to France where, in 2007, she won Lagardère Talent foundation's musician bursary. She used the award to re-record and mix her debut, which was released by the French label No Format! in 2008. The following year, Laveaux put out a cover version of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love," but it wouldn't be until 2013 that her sophomore full-length effort appeared. The title of the record, Dying Is a Wild Night, riffed on an Emily Dickinson quote, and much like her debut, it embraced a multitude of styles, genres, and tropical cadences. In 2016, she traveled to Haiti, her parents' birthplace, for the first time in 20 years. As Laveaux immersed herself in the history and culture of the country, the seeds of her third full-length were sown. Comprised of traditional folk songs, voodoo spirituals, and her original composition "Jolibwa," Radyo Siwèl was released in 2018.
© Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
© Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released February 2, 2018 | No Format!
Hi-Res Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
Between 1915 and 1934, the newly-independent island of Haiti was occupied by the Americans. The island's indomitable people united around traditional or originals songs, which affirmed their creole identity and gave voice to their resistance. It is from this repertoire, shaped and haunted by the figures of Voodoo, that Mélissa Laveaux has taken the raw material for her third album. By taking on this intimate piece of national culture, the singer, of Haitian descent but born in Canada and living in France, has found an excellent way of symbolically exploring the land of her ancestors. With the exception of Jolibwa, which tells the story of a journalist who was killed in prison, she is at once the author and the performer of these songs, which were often freshly written immediately before their recording. She appropriates this cultural heritage with a freedom which is only equalled by her profound and instinctive understanding of the emotions that were first expressed. Working together with her brilliant accomplices in the A.L.B.E.R.T. collective, (the Jazzbastards Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni and Vincent Taege), who recently helped with the latest release by Oumou Sangaré and were present on his album Dying Is a Wild Night, Melissa Laveaux has gone the distance in her quest for identity. Inspired by the pioneering traditional singers Martha Jean-Claude or Emerante de Pradines, she has rifled through old documents, liberated songs that were made to be heard, and freed herself from the weight of convention. She has created a freedom which is as poetic as it is musical, in which traditional troubadours' airs take on new life in tones of deep soul or elegant pop rock. The sensitive and inspiring track list of her Radyo Siwèl deserves to be rewarded with record audiences. © BM/Qobuz