Haitian Music Review: Carimi, Invasion

entitled Invasion launches off with plenty of boasting: “Some have tried to copy, others have tried to emulate. They’ve all failed.” The automated female voice uttering those words fades, and the invasion begins.

consists of ten standard songs and a bonus track. These tracks can be classified as mostly mid-tempo, with the exception of the brazen “Kita Nago”. According to anthropologist and author Marie-Jose Alcide Saint-Lot, the words “Kita” and “Nago” are the names of African tribes…two of the many African tribes that populated Haiti. Apparently, over the years in the Creole language, the words have taken other meanings. The book Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Encyclopedic History edited by Malena Kuss indicates that “kita” and “nago” are rhythmic patterns in traditional Haitian music. In the context that it is used by the group, the two words put together mean, “Ain’t going nowhere”.

“Kita Nago” could be a great workout song, and the type of track that would keep one awake during a long commute. It took several listens to make it tolerable. The lyrics are pure comedy. The narrator is busy pursuing a girl who doesn’t care much more for him anymore. His obsession gets to stalker level. If only he would get the hint, and get on with his life…But he refuses! There’s not a spot on the globe where he won’t follow the unfortunate girl. If only restraining orders could be issued internationally. But I guess one has already been issued because at one point, the narrator says: “Ki te mele’m si’m pran prizon?” So a court order had been sent out against the obsessive fool, and a prison misdemeanor record isn’t deterring him. Not even physical harm. “Ki te mele’m si’m pran baton/M’pran prizon/Mwen pran rezolisyon se avè’w pou mwen ye”—What do I care if I get a beatdown/Or if I go get locked up/I made my decision to be with you. A good guess is that the “baton” is from the girl’s new guy.

Si ou deside pou ou ale
Mwen pral chèche ou tout kote
Mwen semante tout bon vre
Ou mèt al Ayiti, map trouve’w
Ou mèt al Matinik, map chache’w
Lamou sa gen yon jan li kenbe ou

If you decide to walk out on me
I’m going to look for you in all corners of this earth
I freakin’ swear
You could go to Haiti, I’m going to find ya
You could go to Martinique, I’m going to look for ya
This love has a hold on you

This love? This doesn’t sound like healthy love at all. It’s like a very, very unhealthy obsession! The narrator of “Kita Nago” needs an intervention! Quickly!

“Kita Nago” features a rapping segment by Izolan, the guy from the “Dekole” song. He growls:

Li bliye sou tèt kabann mwen
Se li menm ki te biblo

She done forgot that to me she was like
One of those precious little figurines on my dresser

Yo, dude, she dumped you! Get some new decorations.

I had to really let this “Kita Nago” song grow on me…And even after multiple listens, it didn’t become a favorite, but the reaction that I had afterwards, was far from the one I initially had. “Kita Nago” would be an ideal song to hype a crowd at a street festival, or to wake up party-goers in between slow-tempo songs. The beat mixes some light techno, pop, and konpa. The style-blending-friendly quality truly makes it stand out among the other tracks on Invasion, but there’s something about it that doesn’t quite mesh. It’s hard to say what.

“Mean Business” is very bouncy, and at least the intro tries to be different—kinda like dance-konpa. It’s practically a replica of a song in the Carimi song catalog called “Nasty Business”. The exploitation of artists is denounced; shady promoters are given verbal lashings and admonishments, and rebukes. It offers plenty of emotional release, one supposes.

According to the book Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language, edited by H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim, Alastair Pennycook, the term “nana” is a French/European term that infiltrated hip-hop in the 1990s, and is a synonym for the female genitalia. Hip-hop culture added the word “ill”—meaning “outstanding” in street culture lexicon. So, when Carimi has a song with that title, no hypothesis is needed as to what the song is going to be about.

Co-lead Mickael Guirand singer lets us know from the chorus:

On the kitchen table, I be hittin’ it.
On the rooftop, I be hittin’ it.
On the dance floor, I be hittin’ it.

What gymnastics!

Sipping that Ciroc, I be hittin’ it.
On the dancefloor…
Tasty, tasty….

Lions, bears, tigers, oh my—kabrit, poul, mouton, anmwey! And here I was, thinking that the CaRiMi boys were as pure as the driven snow! They are soiled. They are driven by carnal desires. They are not virgins, folks!

Guirand sings: “Fè’m vle kite fanm mwen”—You make me want to leave the girl I’m with. But of course this will never happen. This side piece is just for good times on a bed, and nothing else. If she was the commitment-inducing type, and if her cleverness was what was making the narrator lose his mind, her cerebrum would be the organ being praised here.

“Chikiboom” is such a nice song, and the storyline is awesome. But what is “Chikiboom”? The woman the narrator loves with all his heart, is about to take the marital plunge with another.

Se bagay ki pi difisil
Lè’w yon moun ke’w te renmen—avèk yon lòt
Ou pran pòz ou mande kouman li ye
Men anndan kè ou ap dechire

There’s nothing harder
Than having to see someone you loved—with someone else
You put on a show, asking how they are doing and all
But inside, your heart is tearing to pieces

Can he persuade her to stop the wedding? Can he play on the fond memories that she has of their relationship to bring her back to his trembling, waiting arms? He can’t help but think of the way they understood one another. Ou konn kijan mwen fonksyone/Mwen konn kijan ou fonksyone”—You know me too well/I know you too well.

Matters do not end in his favor, however. No matter how much he depicts images of their good times, she won’t budge. He reminds her of how compatible they were—at one time—in the bedroom, but her voice sounds awfully distant on the phone. Apparently, that’s all there was to their relationship. The sexual chemistry was there (“Eske li fè lanmou menm jan avè’m mwen?”—Does he make love the way I do?), but little else (there is some insinuation that the relationship was marred by excessive jealousy…”Eske li jalou menm jan avè mwen?”—Is he jealous like me?). The man she’s found undoubtedly offers her the security and the trust, and faithfulness that she never had with him.

Towards the conclusion of the song, it becomes possible to conjure up a meaning for the word “chikiboom”. “Chikiboom” used to be the code word between the two of them to sum up their love life (“Gen yon ti mo nou pale/Se sekrè pa nou”—There’s a little word that we use/It’s our own little secret). Now, “Chikiboom” is the sound the narrator’s heart makes as it’s about to get sliced into little pieces…sorta like the reverse of the lub-dub that the heart does when it’s functioning normally. She goes on with her plans to walk walk down the aisle—with another man.

As if “Ill Nana” wasn’t enough, listeners are served with another episode of carnal lust through the song “I’m a Freak”. But, “I’m a Freak” goes steps further than “Ill Nana”, though the songs are tracks of the same feather that flock together. “I’m a Freak” is a celebration of casual hookups, and pleasures of the flesh. The female figure in the narrative for both songs, is objectified. She is to be used for good times and set aside. While she is a consenting adult in these love rendezvous, she’s not really in the driver’s seat. The male narrator tells her when and when to lay down, to undress, and because he fears that her official man will come through the door any minute now, he even dictates when “it” is going to end.

Now, what is it with these CaRiMi boys? [In my grandma’s voice] Ki chalè ki pran yo la menm?. “I’m a Freak” makes much of casual encounters. The melody is so smooth and the voice of Carlo Vieux is so lullaby-like, and so darn sexy, one nearly forgets what this song is truly about!

I’m a freak, freaky freak
Can’t nobody do it better
Do it better

So you want to be on top
You want to blow my brains away

Again, whereas the woman may voice her desire to be on top, she isn’t the one who’s in control.

Rete la, pa bouje
Mwen pral fè ou vwayaje
Nou pral nan yon ti peyi anba dra yo rele Fè Lanmou

Stay right there, don’t move
I’m going to take you on a little trip
To a little country under the sheets called Lovemaking

Dezabiye’w tou dousman, pa prese

Undress yourself slowly…don’t be in a hurry.

What? Not even a little bit of assistance with undressing? See how much emotion the narrator is putting into it all?

I’m going to make you sweat it off
Drip, drip

“Se mande ou pral mande pou ou kite”—You’re going to want to leave your man. But he warns, “Mwen pa vinn pou’m rete”—I’m not here to stay. He doesn’t want a relationship with her. This narrator is in it for the moment. She’s in a committed relationship, and he’s amusing himself with her. To him, it’s all about living for the moment. No attachment…nothing.

Wi mwen anvi fè-l ankò
Anvan mennaj ou vinn debake

Yeah, I want to go at it again
Before your man comes up in here

“Before your man comes up in here”? Ah, again she is in a committed relationship. She’s jeopardizing her relationship to be with this cad?

“I’m a Freak” is going to be one of the popular songs on the album, and an eponymous hit, thanks to the lusty, carnal-pleasure seeking boys and girls of the world. Who, I ask…who could have written this ode to carnal and casual lust and the ardent pursuit of fleshly desires?

Who?

Karlotitos!

If there is a song on Invasion that just does it for me, it’s “Kat Identite’m” [My ID Card]. Written and composed by Mario De Volcy and Richard Cave, the song really captures the essence of CaRiMi…romantic CaRiMi…the CaRiMi that made “Por Favor”, “Fè’m Kado’w”. Towards the beginning, one does not know quite what to expect…there is the banjo, ukelele, and Hawaiian guitars at the beginning, and very country-music chords…You’re expecting a call to dosey-doe any minute, until the Creole lyrics are sung by co-lead singer Richard Cave. Lovely. Just lovely. This song comes across as a track that will eventually be a staple at weddings, and moreover, will be one of those ballads selected by brides and grooms for a first dance.


Ou se paspò’m
Ou se viza’m
Ou se kat identite’m
San ou cheri, m’pa ekziste

You’re my passport
You’re my visa stamp
Without you, there is no me

As if this song needed to be more dope, Cave is joined by singers Wanito and Mika Benjamin.

Everyone should be able to live this kind of love—this love that’s described in . This love where the respective hearts of a boy and a girl are so intertwined….it’s almost as if the oxygenated blood in one heart pumps out to the other, and vice versa. The kind of love where two souls are truly one and ultimately give veritable meaning to the phrase, “And they shall become one flesh.”

“Kat Identite’m” has Mika’s musical fingerprints all over it. It was rather astonishing to uncover that he was not the songwriter or composer behind it.

It’s already been established in other Kreyolicious.com music reviews that a Haiti song has a reserved spot on every album by a Haitian group or artist. The song that has that distinction on Invasion is a hyped little number entitled “Nostalgie”.

M’songe peyi’m we
M’songe lakay mwen e
M’anvi ale La Citadelle
Mennen’m ale
St. Louis du Sud
Mennen’m male

I’m missing my country
I’m missing my homeland, hey
Feel like going to the Citadelle
Take me there
St. Louis du Sud
Take me there

La Citadelle, as we have learned, is a fortress that was built by King Henri Christophe and St. Louis du Sud is a historical city in Haiti.

Not surprisingly, this song is from the same songwriter who wrote “Ayiti Se”—Mika Benjamin. Although written by the same pen, “Nostalgie” has a whole different take altogether. “Ayiti Se” was a sweet ballad that was sung like a love story to a country. “Nostalgie” bounces with the swagger of a party song. Whereas, “Ayiti Se” enumerated Haiti’s countless merits as a tropical paradise, “Nostalgie” urges Haiti’s seeds not to take their birth home for granted. There’s even a cute little rapping bridge by Mika that’s surprisingly well-done. It would have seemed out of place in “Ayiti Se”, but it fits rather well on “Nostalgie”.

The upbeat “CIA” is nearly a carbon copy of another CaRiMi song I’ve listened to called “Kidnapping”. The subject is pretty much the same: distrust in a relationship, but this time other factors are added to the equation…infidelity in the era of social media, secret passwords, and concealment of cell phone bills/statements-call summaries. The song, of course, is named after the U.S. intelligence corp CIA, and the narrator resents being constantly on the watch, and being accused of being unfaithful. She’s certain that he’s being unfaithful when girls’ phone numbers are saved on his phone with guys’ names. He retorts that the persistent female caller is just a platonic friend in need of relationship counseling. “CIA” is danceable, head-bob friendly, if nothing else.

Cheri, sispann veye

Babes, stop with your spying!

With lyrics in Creole and English, “Baby, I Miss You” is another standout, and a primary weapon on Invasion. From the enticing intro, to the arrangements, to the infectious hook, “Baby, I Miss You” is all sweetness, and chivalry. But for some reason, the Creole verses come off stronger. On the bridge of the song, singer Mika Benjamin, who is the guest-star vocalist, croons:

I’m laying in this bed without you by my side
And I’m reminiscing on the way you wine
I want you because you’re so damn fine
I think you got me under your spell
You let the whisper of your smell
On my skin

Like, what? Are these, like, the most trite lyrics ever? Like no effort were put in them, whatsoever. Like they were just thrown in there as an afterthought. Like, the lyrics of those 80’s techno songs where the lyrics are almost nonexistent, but there’s plenty of beats. But that doesn’t stop the song from being one of the best that Invasion has to offer.

Mwen vle fou lè’m wè wa’p kouri nan bra’m
I go ballistic when I see you runnin’ straight into my arms.

Now, that’s better!

“Baby, I Miss You” has the romance factor that is lacking in “I’m a Freak” and “Ill Nana”. Distance and time away makes the heart grow fonder it is said, and that is the thesis presented in “Baby, I Miss You”.

Invasion experiments with different sounds, while keeping a konpa core. As far as lyrical content is concerned, there are two factions: the romantic and the lusty. Songs like the sensuous “I’m a Freak” and “Ill Nana” demonstrate the ugly side of men, their tendency for showing utter disloyalty to their faithful girlfriends and shrug off meaningful relationships in favor of casual, fleeting trysts. Thank God for songs like “Kat Identite’m” and “Baby, I Miss You” and “Love de Toi” (featuring Fanny J) that celebrate true love, and emotional intimacy. They provide a break from all the fornication fest.

Co-lead singer Mickael Guirand really does a fantastic job on the vocals, as he’s done on the Carimi songs I’m familiar with. Distinctive and resonant, his voice is one of the highlights of this album. His vocals are very versatile. They can come together to sing a sweet ballad one minute and then transform to sing an upbeat song without a glitch. The other two members of Carimi match him in deftness. Historically, boy bands always have had the spotlight on one singer, with the other members singing backup, and maybe, maybe, just maybe occasionally sing a filler track. That isn’t the case in Carimi at all. Each member has his little song assignment, and does such a stupendous job that it doesn’t even come to the mind to ask, “I wonder how this song would sound if so-and-so sung this instead of so-and-so.”

For instance, Carlo Vieux’s voice is well-matched for “I’m a Freak”. The arrangements on that song are no less than stellar. His voice circles around the melody, ever so smoothly. Sweetly. Picture chocolate being stirred into honey, and a cup of brown sugar finding itself in there somehow, along with a sprinkle of well-shelled almonds—and you’ll have a great mental depiction of the song’s consistent flow.

Cave is mighty impressive, especially on the song “Nostalgie”. His whisper-soft, poet-perfect voice is something else. It sounds like it’s not capable of uttering anything other than tender words.

The closing title “Après le Marriage” is deceptively-titled. Translated as “After the Wedding”, one expects the song to explore the themes of post-wedding and honeymoon tribulation, but that is far from the story line.

In order to make an invasion, there has to be the right leader (in this case there is a triumvirate Cave, Guirand, Vieux), valiant, able-bodied soldiers (Wanito, Mika Benjamin, Admiral T, Fanny J, Mario Devolcy, Hans Mercier, Alex Thebaud, Gregory Chery, etc) an effective, expertly-calculated strategy, and of course, a viable territory to conquer. Carimi has everything in place. Now, it’s a matter of how extensive the invasion shall be.

Let’s support Haitian music. Be sure to check out their album on , and check out the band’s page on and the .

Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious

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