You can’t help but sing and dance along to Ayiti Afrika (2006) by master of the Haitian drum Bonga and his family of percussionists including son Tiga and cousin Fito along with multi-horn player Peck Allmond; cellist Rufus Cappadocia; balafonist Famoro Dioubate; and vocalists Alisha Zebulon, Sheila Anozier and Jephte Guillaume.
Bonga leads this jazzy roots ensemble with his mastery of the intricate Vodou rhythms of Haiti.
With handcrafted drums (manman, segon, boula,kata) and traditional kreyol melodies, Bonga et famille harken back to Afrika (Guinen) to create a mesmerizing original sound.
Mbira (African thumb piano) didgeridoo (Australian pipe horn); koné (tin trumpets); 5-string electric cello; reeds; brass; woodwinds; balafon;tcha-tchas; and banbou (bamboo horns) comprise the instrumentation and enhance Bonga’s repertoire of Afro-Haitian rhythms from the Ibo, Kongo and Dahomey.
Uplifting songs of strength, sacrifice and hope are offered straight from the heart to conjure the magic of Haiti.
“Bonga” Gaston Jean-Baptiste has been performing and studying traditional Haitian drum, dance and song since the age of seven.
He began playing drums in his family’s temple in his hometown of Croix-des-Mission in La Plaine, an area of Haiti known for culture and history.
A core member of the seminal Haitian roots bands, Boukman Eksperyans, Boukan Guinen and Foulà, Bonga was invited to the U.S.
in the ‘90s when popular musicians were becoming a strong voice for the Haitian people.
Since then Bonga has continued to play solo and in ensemble.
He has performed venues in every continent.
Bonga drums opened the NY premiere of the Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge” tour at Shea Stadium in New York and they can be heard prominently on recordings by Wyclef Jean and Salif Keita.
Bonga has been a featured performer with Dan Zanes, Grace Jones and he is company member of Tamango's Urban Tap.
Bonga has an extensive repertoire of Afro-Haitian rhythms and coveted techniques.
A dynamic performer, accompanist, session player and educator, Bonga works on stage, as a session musician and in educational settings with children.
He is one of the few craftsmen outside of Haiti who continues to build traditional drums using centuries-old techniques.