A Review of Natif Natal by Haitian Singer Belo

If there’s something that’s better than a cluster of fab grooves, it’s a collection of fab grooves tied to some thought-provoking storytelling, and that’s precisely what singer songwriter Belo’s album Natif Natal sums up to. The 13-track album (there are three interludes) starts off with “Detripay”, a song so telling of Haiti’s streets, it’s probable that the narrator is probably standing on the tip of one of those purple-blue-brown mountains with a pair of binoculars, observing the world below. Recounting all that he sees to us, he mentions:

Kloutoup, kloutap, miwo miba
Kopi, klopan, nou tèt anba
Ap tatonnen je nan fè nwa
Nap moute mònn sou janm debwa

Click clacking, uneven
Click, clacking–we’re all topsy-turvy
Squinting in the dark
Climbing mountains with clutches too big

Rèv depaman, twòkèt malè…

Mismatching dreams, terror cushions

Poto san fil, jwenn madigra…
Li pa nòmal, men ni nòmal

Street poles with no wires, meet with clowns
It ain’t right, it just ain’t right

Tifi douzan kap kap fè totwa
Anfans yo make avè koutba
Yon ti flè’k pandye nan kochma
Kap bouske lavi nan fatra
Timoun kap drive nan lari
Kòk poko menm fini grandi
Kap vann plezi
Pran maladi

12-year old girls working the sidewalk
Their childhoods scarred by heartbreak
Little flowers dangling in a nightmare
They’re looking for a way out in a landfill
Young boys not even past adolescence
And they’re selling themselves
Getting infected with STDs

Kase lèzo anba galri
Fòn ta ekri nan istwa
Doulè nan ren mache anba
Inosans vann nan bak lavil
Parèt riban, ou koupe fil

Break bones on front porches
Somebody please record all of this
Little pains that go deep
Innocence sold behind street stands
Little ribbons, get cut to shreds

Yes, it’s indeed a sad state of affairs. He goes on:

Gen dezòd nan lakou a
Pwoblèm nan lakou’m nan
Mezanmi li pa nòmal

It’s a hot mess in the community
There’s problems out here
Folks, this ain’t right

There’s a violin on “Detripay”; the melody sounds like a luxurious lullaby, but the story is far from what a mother tucking in her child would sing. “Detripay” sets the tone of the entire album: blunt but not cynical; truth-telling without despair.

From there, the singer takes us to another scene, with “Vann Dlo”—Sell Water. A family man sells water on the streets. It’s no coincidence that he’s selling water of all things. Water has always symbolized purity, purification, restoration…rehabilitation. He wants to maintain his dignity.

While he’s walking (on foot no doubt), he sees other compatriots who have sold out their integrity. But he’s determined to keep his eyes on the prize. As he tells it:

M’pap rantre nan move zafè
Menm si se vre lavi di

I’m not about to do anything shady
Even if life ain’t that sweet

M’ta renmen woule yon bèl auto
Men sepandan mwen poko—m’poko kapab
Map fè tout sa mwen konnen
Po yo ka miyò demen
M’pito mache nan solèy cho
Pou mwen fè edikasyon timoun yo avan’m male

I’d love to get me a nice whip
But I can’t afford it just yet
I’m doing all that I can
So that they can have a better future…
I’d rather sell water
I’d rather walk under this hot sun
I have to educate my kids before I take my last breath

Mwen oblije satiyèt lari a
Gen de jou mwen pa gen kòb taksi ya…
Men mwen pa gen le chwa

So, I deal with life
Somedays, I don’t even have my taxi fare
But I don’t have a choice

“Vann Dlo” is about rejecting materialism and easy riches in return for lasting success and hard work. Maintaining one’s virtue and respectability and showing genuine disdain for all things that can threaten one’s honor.

“Groovy”, “Ti Nonm”, “Mizik A Duam” keep with the album’s overall theme of enduring for the sake of tomorrow. “Ban Nouvèl Ou” (So, How Are You?) isn’t about saying a simple hello to someone. It’s not a half-hearted greeting or something said just out of auto-pilot courtesy. It’s about truly caring for another human being—their dreams, their hopes, and their concerns. We can say, “Hello” to a person everyday, and not know what’s truly going on within their soul, what irks them, what drives them, and most importantly of all, what terrorizes them.

When the man who’s hustling water has harder times than usual, it’s time for him to be told, “Pa Lage”—don’t give up.

Pa koute moun ki di ou pa anyen
Paske ou se malere…
Solèy Bondye klere pou tout moun-o
Fò’w pa lage
Menm si devan’w tout moun bare ou
Pa kite moun trete ou diferan paske ou pa gen yo dola
Pa bliye lafwa’w
Respè ak dignite’w
Pi sipiryè pase milyon dola
Se zam pou ou goumen avèk lavi-a

Dem folks that tell you you ain’t nothing
Don’t pay ’em no mind
God made the sun shine on everyone, or nah?
Don’t give up now
Even if people try to block your path to success
Hang in there
Don’t let folks treat you no different
Just ’cause your pockets ain’t full of dollars
Dignity and self-respect are worth more than a milli
Don’t forget that faith
Is the weapon that’ll help you fight your way through life

Was surprised to see an English language song sandwiched among the other tracks. Entitled “Citizen of the World”, the song preaches how all of us humans are connected through one umbilical cord: “One big ocean in motion/one vibration/one silhouette”. Sorta like Lennon’s “Imagine”, and Jackson and Richie’s “We Are the World”.

It’s always good to hear a love song that’s cut from a different cloth, as “Abondans” is (the singer’s partner on the song is a singer named Queen Bee). It’s not one of those songs that seem to have been cut to serve as background music for a fairy tale. Two people are in a relationship and they’re getting older. The pair has been through some rough patches. It sounds like one of those on-and-off relationships.

Mwen pa pare pou mwen ale pou yon jounen
Paske mwen renmen ou
Mwen renmen ou an abondans

I’m not ready to let you go
Not even for one day
Cause I love you
I love you dearly

But how does she feel?

Jodi-a mwen revòlte
Mwen pa pare pou mwen rete pou menm yon jounen
Mwen renmen ou pwofondeman
Malgre mwen renmen ou

Mwen pa ka rekomanse ankò
Mwen pito viv lwen ou

Today, things are achanging
I’m not about to stay
Not even for another day
I love you, dearly
Can’t start over again
I’d rather we stay at a distance


That’s what’s maturity, folks. Recognizing that in some cases that no love is better than toxic love. And she mentions “mizè”! Mizè…misery…trials and tribulations. This could be about domestic violence. Yeah, it probably is, especially when in the next line, she uses a word as strong as “revòlte”…revolt. One has to be treated in a demeaning, de-humanizing way to spur a revolt. The most likely scenario: Brute beats up woman, claims to love her. She keeps going back to him, and out of nowhere she realizes that she’s just going in for encore performances, and ends it once and for all. Good for you, milady!

“Kase Ti Bwa”, placed earlier in the sequence of the album, is more hopeful than “Abondans”, but the reggae-and-jazz binded melody sounds like a funeral hymn. The song chronicles a childhood flirtation that grows into a deeper love, but not without some heartaches and unsettling moments.

Got to hand it to this singer. He sure knows how to pick his duet partners. On “Pa Lage Sa”, his musical comrade is a folksy-sounding singer named Mandela. They have the same reggae griot kind of vibe, but their style is different enough that you can clearly discern who’s who. Belo also does duets with two other male singers, a Eddy Francois (“Pa Koute Yo”—Don’t Pay Them No Mind) and B.I.C (“Kase Ti Bwa”). Honestly, it’s rare to see male duets work in some musical genres (excluding rap), but these gentlemen aligned their voices effectively.

With “Ekoloji”, I was expecting a verbal epistle about everything that’s wrong with the environment, but the song turned out to be pretty tame—although the hush-shush chorus by the singer Queen Bee was pleasant to listen to.

Natif Natal (Native Son) is one of those albums that you’ll either have on perpetual replay or play for a day and put it away…not because it’s not a great album, but because the truths in the lyrics of songs like “Detripay” are much too difficult to bear, too painful to fathom, too heart-shredding to picture. A father putting his children through school by selling water; street kids selling their bodies to survive; women who love in abundance, but who have to forget about their feelings and run…once you start pondering on those depictions…it’s like reading headlines about Haiti, but at least in the singer Belo’s musical version of things, there’s some sort of balance in the reporting, and there’s more than enough hope.

Show your support for this artist. to purchase Natif Natal on iTunes | Check out Natif Natal from BelO | | |

Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious

Kreyolicious in Memoriam | A Review of Natif Natal by Haitian Singer Belo

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