How to describe the musical style of the artist Wesli Louissaint? It’s a little bit of world, it’s a little bit of roots embedded in funk. Born in Haiti, Wesli is the leader of Wesli Band, and is currently based in Montreal.
The singer-songwriter-producer has thus far released two albums (Courage) and Liberté Dans Le Noir (Freedom in the Dark). His songs are filled with hope, though they tend to bewail lamentable social conditions.
His work has not gone unnoticed. Wesli won the Galaxie Rising Star Award London three years ago, and a year before that won two prestigious musical awards—Prix Babel Med Music France 2010, Révélation Radio-Canada.
So, when you were eight years old, you built your own guitar. Tell us about that!
I was inspired by my father who had an old guitar that he hung high up on the wall. I wanted to touch it and take it down, but there was no question about it, I wasn’t allowed. On Sundays, my father played music in a group of troubadours to make a living. I was inspired by his guitar and so I built my own with an oil can and some nylon fishing lines. This is how I began to play in the little church that my mother ran at the time.
And your bio says that you were part of a band…a band called SoKute. Tell us about that experience.
When I was a teenager in the Protestant church, I touched a little bit on everything, such as music production, voice, guitar, percussion, etc…I was part of many small groups like Top Digital with Maestro Hanz Mercier—today known as Kréyol La—Nice with Pascal Laraque and Gilbert Ravix—currently in Mizik Mizik—Sakad, Kid Coupé, etc…But I wanted to play a different kind of music. I was already playing all styles—jazz, R&B, soul, reggae, rock, and roots. Eventually, I was given the roles of guitarist, composer, backup vocalist and musical director for the group SoKute with Steve Khe—today working with Djakout Number One—which was a new trend of Rock, Soul, and Roots in Haiti in the late 90’s. With them, my international career took off—Francofolies of Montreal, Roots and Culture Miami, etc…I entered a more serious phase of my career when I was later hired as the guitarist for Nuit des Sirènes (‘Night of the Sirens’), Kreyol Mizik by Yole Dérose and Carl Henry Desmornes. I was accompanying renown Creole artists such as Sonia Dersion, Thierry Cham, Edith Lefele, Léa Galva, Léila Chico, Eric Virgal, Jacky Rapon, Monique Seka, etc…After that, I decided to move to Canada to continue my studies in music.
What caused you to become taken by the guitar, of all instruments?
The guitar was everywhere when I was a child. I played a bit of everything because music in general fascinated me. But every time I touched an electric or acoustic guitar, something very emotive and virtuoso would emerge. Audiences encouraged me to play more often. With time, I understood the value of the instrument. Everything I wanted to do on other instruments, I could do on the guitar. It was easy to write with and to accompany myself on. Percussive, groovy and rhythmic. The guitar became my principal instrument. But at all my shows, I always touch the percussion as well.
What does music mean to you?
To me, music is a way to express my emotions and my thoughts. It is my therapy. It shows me how to live, and it is the future for Wesli and his family.
What’s it like having your own band?
I’m very very lucky that I have the freedom to have my own band. I have complete control over my music, I compose the melodies for all the instruments, and I do all of the arrangements. It doesn’t happen often that labels who sign artists internationally give them this freedom. Except Wyclef. He had that chance.
Your debut album was called Kouraj. How did that album take shape?
It was not easy. Kouraj made me break through the ice. This album taught me about the music industry and marked the beginning of my career. Although the majority of the songs were already written in my Haiti days, where I struggled through a hard life in the Port-of-Prince ghetto where I grew up, it took me 8 years of experience in Canada, including my studies, to understand and be ready to face this new world. I learned a lot about the industry here thanks to my work accompanying artists like Corneille, Gage, and Lorraine Klaasen. Kouraj is also a message of hope to the Haitian people, and to all those who come from far, who have had to face tough times in their lives.
Throughout it all, how did your parents feel—about the fact that you were so drawn to music?
Like all Haitian parents, they sometimes associate music with drugs and alcohol, which is a big misunderstanding. At the beginning, they thought I was crazy. So I used to hide to go and practice. My mother wanted me to only sing gospel. They absolutely wanted me to go to university. But in the 90’s, the economy in Haiti was suffering enormously from political problems. So my parents couldn’t push me any further after my secondary school studies. They had no choice but to let me go.
You’re constantly on tour. What’s the most memorable place you’ve been to?
There are many moments that have left their imprint on me—such as my concert at the Doc du Sud in Marseilles in the south of France—where I won the Babel Med Music France award, as well as my three performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and others.
Gives us a behind the scenes look in the making of your album Liberté Dans Le Noir.
For the album Liberté Dans Le Noir, it was very spontaneous. When I won the prize from Radio Canada Revelation of the Year (CBC), they gave me three days in the most sophisticated studio in Canada, Studio 12. I wasn’t used to working in a studio with equipment I wasn’t familiar with, so I was exploring all kinds of things. Songs were being created in the studio from a bass line, or guitar, or piano that I started to play. I remember that we didn’t know where we were going, but I wanted to have new experiences. When I finished writing the music, there were no lyrics yet, just “La la la”. At the end, Tiken Jah Fakoly, ‘Mes Aieux’ and myself started writing on the sofa there on scraps of paper. Nothing was finished and everyone was leaving on tour. At that point, Tiken Jah left for tour to France, and it was there that he finished writing his part, me also finished writing in my tour bus.
What words of wisdom would you like to share to someone who wants to embark on a musical career?
One piece of advice I would give to those who want to make a career in music is to be patient. The industry is changing a lot, which diminishes the chances of succeeding, even if you have talent. Be fiercely independent, play one or more instruments. Be capable of doing everything on your own. This will simplify your life.
When was the last time you went to Haiti?
In April 2013, I was on tour with Les Alliance Françaises, and went to Cap Haitien, Gonaives, Jacmel, Les Cayes, Port-of-Prince, Saint Marc, Pétion Ville and Delmas.
What should your fans expect from you next?
I would like to thank Kreyolicious for this interview. I think of my fans a lot, a whole lot—especially when it comes to my new songs that they cherish and the well thought-of lyrics I thought of for them. And I won’t forget the promise I made. I’m going to be performing in Ottawa—CDA—at Bascoche in Gatineau, as well as Richemond, and the Imperial in Quebec, at MCF in Montreal, and in Toronto and Chattam. And I’m going to be touring Nova Scotia in the March. Visit often to get all the
Just like I had promised, I have two albums that are going to be released in Canada and in France this year—one in Creole in my mother and father’s tongue, and second one that’s going to be in French and in English. I’m going to have a lot of featured artists on these albums. My fans, I love you all—I love you very much. I’m coming. Big up! Kinbe Rèd, pa Lage [Hold on tight, don’t let go].
Get to know Wesli and Wesli band a bit better. Visit the singer’s website by . Check out his CDs on
Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious