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Contributor: xxxxx TD
Vodou Nation ? Bagleys, London N1.

The African Caribbean Music Circuit, A quango set up by the Arts Council of England to promote music acts both from the UK and abroad, are the producers of a major UK tour featuring a large contingent of musicians and religious devotees from Haiti travelling under the name "Vodou Nation". Presented in Bagleys, a warehouse space in Kings Cross, the multi-faceted event comprised of two rooms with deejays, one with a stage for the bank ? the fabled Boukman Eksperyans and a fourth room featuring a vodou ritual of marathon timespan.

Apparently, Boukman Eksperyans have heroically championed the voodoo music of Haitian peasant culture. The nation?s ruling elite has hounded the group from pillar to post, preferring to encourage the exponents of a less politically motivated musical genre known as "Compas Direct". Resilience and perseverance seem to have won the day and Boukman?s "Mizik Rasin" (Roots Music) has become an international phenomenon thanks to the financial clout of Mango records.

Bombastic and loopy in a mid 1970?s Caribbean bohemian sort of way, Boukman Eksperyans have some attractive qualities such as their celebration of communal values. Their somewhat cluttered sound was reminiscent of Senegalese dance bands like Super Diamond De Dakar. For my jaded, Europeanised tastes however, I found the political jargon of the group?s songs and monologues to be sadly clich?d and dated.

The vodou ritual was more interesting, perhaps because of the timelessness of its essence. In front of an adorned altar, several women danced and sang in response to a male cantor with an all male drum ensemble supplying accompaniment. A special feature of this ceremony was the incredibly sprightly 85 year old priest who lit up and smoked a cigar during the ritual. Many Caucasian spectators seemed to be riveted by the spectacle. However the Africans present were nonplussed, describing the event as a diluted version of various rituals in Nigeria or Ghana. It reminded me of a Yoruba Aladura Church service.

On the whole the event promised more than it delivered, however, as a night?s entertainment and a forum for the meeting of old acquaintances, it had its uses.
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