Music Review: Wanito, Biografi Mwen – Kreyolicious.com

Music Review: Wanito, Biografi Mwen Written by  Kat with  5 Comments His birth name is Louis Pascal Juanitho Beaubrun. But call him Wanito. And listen hard to his album Biografi Mwen(Peacetones), a 10-track album that touches on everything from the frustrations of slum living in Haiti, to an unplanned pregnancy, to community strife (“Aprann Konnen”), to poverty, and spirituality (“Disparisyon”), […]

Music Review: Wanito, Biografi Mwen

Written by  Kat with  5 Comments

His birth name is Louis Pascal Juanitho Beaubrun. But call him Wanito. And listen hard to his album Biografi Mwen(Peacetones), a 10-track album that touches on everything from the frustrations of slum living in Haiti, to an unplanned pregnancy, to community strife (“Aprann Konnen”), to poverty, and spirituality (“Disparisyon”), and, inevitably, tragic young love (“San Doudou”).

Wanito’s Biografi Mwen easily earns upper percentile ranking among the musical works that have been released by Haitian artists in recent memory. His folksy style is unadorned by artificiality, and his lyrics speak unpretentiously of every day situations, or rather situations hit with a Wanito touch. And what is the Wanito touch? It’s spoken word poetry set to music, practically; it’s the chronicling of pieces of life in urban Haiti with a humor that belies sometimes ugly circumstances. “Yon Jou La Jou” starts off bemoaning the burdens of a country donkey, but in later verses it is made rather apparent that the burrow reference is a mere metaphor for Haiti. Wanito, accompanied by a lone guitar beat and a non-interfering bass, sings:

It’s they who don’t stop eating secretly
When your neck is long and scrawny
They curse you as being worthless and dirty
They ask on your behalf, but you will never get any of the treats
Why are these people playing exploiting games
Each time you give your heart away, you regret it afterward
In reality, this never should have happened

“Ayiti se yon ti peyi blokis,” Wanito croons folornly in “Blokis”, a mini-epic about being stuck in traffic in Haiti, that becomes a platform to bemoan stalled lives in Haiti; that of high school students struggling to get through the red tape to reach the next level, that of mother bringing a hot meal to her son in the state penitentiary, of the driver struggling to make a living while dealing with impatient, restless, and at times, not-so-polite passengers.

Zanmi, fò-w pa kont mwen
Si-m pa janm kite-w konnen feblès mwen
Se pou-w pa detwi mwen
Se pou-w pa ajoute nan strès mwen
Menm detwi lavi’m

Don’t hate on me, my friend
If you see that I’m always on my guard
It’s so you won’t add to my stress
Or worse end up destroying me

By the end of the second track, it’s so obvious that Wanito opened the door and brought in a fresh breeze, the like that hasn’t been seen from a young talent from Haiti since Mika Benjamin released his album Mika. Not even population density in Haiti’s capital escapes the observation of Wanito. The very arresting, and beautifully-sung “Ti Miyo” recounts the cautionary tale of, well, Ti Miyo, a young man who leaves the countryside to stay with relatives in the big city. He gets a warm welcome from his city-living relatives, but once he has overstayed his welcome, it’s a whole other story:

Akèy la komanse chanje
Ya’p bal move jan, yo fatige
Yo gentan ta renmen-l ale
Podyab ti Miyo, te tonbe nan cho
Menm pou ti goud dlo, li wè son-w gwo fado
Tout sak ba bon, yo te fè chaj sou do’l

They were treating so badly, they were tired
They already want him to leave
Poor little Miyo, was in trouble
Even for a little drop of water he drank, it was a big deal
Everything that went wrong, they blamed it on him

And reality begins to set in, and show its stern face: “La vi sa tèlman dwòl/Li tankou yon ekip foutbòl/Men nan pwòp kan-w/Li fé-w bay gòl”, Wanito observes. Translation: This life is so strange/It’s like playing soccer/And striking a goal for your opponent’s side.” Disillusioned, and self-defeated, Ti Miyo returns home, and thus abandons all hopes for finishing his studies, the very route where his future lies. If “Ti Miyo” speaks the reality of one person, “Aprann Konnen” holds a gramophone to announce the realities of an entire community, and settles on economic and class disparity.

Reyalite la vi yo pa menm ak moun anwo
e ni gen dlo k’ap ba yo vant fè mal
De jou pa manje pa’p deranje trip yo
Yo pa pwal nan bal
Yo pa nan ambyans
DJ pral jwe
Yo pral nan ti sourit pito

The reality of their life is not the same as the people up above
And there is no water that can give them stomach aches
Two days without food won’t make their stomach trip
They’re not going to the club
Fun isn’t for them
The DJ plays, but they’re going to
party with the mice instead

Wanito pleads for self-reflection rather than being judgmental; understanding and unity, rather than division; for compassion, rather than scorn:

Gade’m
Pa twaze’m

Look at me
Don’t roll your eyes at me

Aside from the bouncy “Do Re Mi”, “Gadon Rè-v”, is one of the album’s few upbeat tracks. But while its beat may be celebratory in tone, the storyline it tells, isn’t. A high school student, a year shy of graduating from secondary school has to drink, or more accurately put, gulp the cup before him: his girl is pregnant. Unemployed and not yet ready for impending fatherhood, he faces his situation with grim pleasure. His friends rejoice over his current lot in life; with him out of the way, he’s one less competitor they’ll have to face when they place their candidacy for the presidency. Perhaps wanting to just give teen listeners a glimpse of what life could be, Wanita changes direction, and reveals in bridge that all was but a dream, a teenage nightmare.

With his gift for crafting metaphor-rich lyrics, and composing original music, Wanito will surely not meet the same fate as Ti Miyo, the aforementioned subject of his song, whose once promising future, overturns to the state of Langston Hughes’ proverbial raisin in the sun. With his natural talent, honest lyrics, smooth-as-asphalted pavement guitar, if that were to be so, it would be a tragedy for Haitian music, which, despite its stagnancy and homogenous quality, occasionally offers little musical treasures like Wanito.

Source: Music Review: Wanito, Biografi Mwen – Kreyolicious.com

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