An enigmatic guitarist and singer, Coupé Cloué acquired this nickname (translated as "kickout") from his prowess on the soccer field. He is famous, or rather notorious, for his lyrics containing sexual double-entendres, long "raps" ranging from risqué to romantic, and social satire. His "compas mamba" (peanut compas) seem very African, with a guitar style resembling West African highlife and the use of Cuban bongo drums and bamboo tubes played with sticks in addition to the standard conga and drum kit. Appearing on many album covers wearing African clothing, Coupé Cloué, with his shaved head, cuts a striking figure. This may explain why he was given the title "Le Roi" (the king) when he played in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, in 1975. Of all the electric Caribbean bands, Coupé Cloué has the strongest African sound, which shows the strength of his roots, for he claims he never heard African music before his 1975 trip. Son Haiti: Best of Coupe Cloue was released in 1999 by Arcade. ~ Robert Leaver, All Music Guide
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Gesner Henry (Coupé Cloué) runs one of the prettiest guitar bands on either side of the Altantic, though Tabou Combo's hit-hunting has kept C.C. out of the international spotlight. Here are the interlocking guitars, roosty percussion, and chatty vocals which make Coupé in general, and this mid-70s collection in particular, one of our undisputed faves. ~ Carl Hoyt, All Music Guide
Jean Gesner Henry (May 10, 1925 - January 29, 1998), popularly known as Coupé Cloué, was a Haïtian singer, guitarist, and bandleader. He was known for defining a style of Haïtian compas music he called kompa mamba, and for the sometimes bawdy innuendo used in his songs. During his career, he was one of Haïti's most prominent musicians, and found much success in West Africa as well.
As a young man, he received a classical music education and worked as a cabinetmaker before becoming a professional soccer player. It was from soccer, playing defense for the Port-au-Prince club Aigles Noirs, that he acquired his nickname, "Coupé Cloué" or "cut and nail".
He began performing on guitar in 1951, and in 1957 he formed the band Trio Crystal, which he later renamed Trio Select, along with another guitar player and a maraca player. Their first album, one of the dozens Henry released during his career, was released in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s the group expanded from its original three, and renamed itself Ensemble Select. That decade also saw an increase in his use of racy spoken preaching and storytelling in addition to singing during songs; this became one of his trademarks.
In 1978 Henry toured extensively in Africa, greatly increasing his international prominence. His popularity in West Africa was especially boosted by similarities between the rhythms and sounds of Henry's music and indigenous African soukous music. It was there that Henry earned the nickname Roi Coupé, or King Coupé. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Henry continued to perform and record prolifically.
Henry died of diabetes in January 1998, having only retired from performing the previous month. He was mourned in Port-au-Prince by a day-long outdoor funeral celebration, attended by thousands of people, including the interim Minister of Culture.