Issa El Saieh had one of the legendary orchestras in Haiti from the early 1940s to the early 1950s:
Super Orchestre Issa El Saieh. His band featured a rich and varied repertoire which included
traditional Haitian numbers, Cuban mambos and American jazz-inspired songs. The orchestra
(later led by Ernest "Nono" Lamy and Joe Trouillot) recorded for his own La Belle Creole label until
1956, sometimes reinforced by international stars like Budd Johnson on tenor sax and Bebo Valdés
The recording activities of the band have been amply documented on three previous Mini
Records albums: El Maëstro and La Belle Époque, Volumes 1 and 2. The present record contains
three newly discovered sides from the beginning of the 1950s, featuring the great vocalists Joe
Trouillot and Guy Durosier.
Issa was a pioneeer in fusing Haitian dance music with both voodoo rhythms and international music
currents. This is reflected also in the records made for La Belle Creole. He did not record just his own
orchestra, but he also made sure that both visiting international stars like Budd Johnson, Bebo Valdés
and bebop pianist Billy Taylor, as well as local young Haitian singers and musicians, like Rodolphe
Legros Guy Durosier and Wébert Sicot had the opportunity to make records for him, sometimes in the
company of foreign star performers. These recordings constitute the core of La Belle Époque, Volumes
3-5.They offer a unique opportunity to listen to Budd, Bebo and Billy as they dig into the Haitian music
treasure and give us a chance to meet some of the future stars of Haitian music while establishing
themselves on the domestic scene.
The Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés had met Issa in Havana in the 1940s, and
when Issa suddenly found himself without an orchestra in October 1947, he sent for Bebo, who
immediately came to Haiti where he remained until February 1948. Bebo helped Issa to put a new
band together, arranged for the orchestra and recorded with it on several occasions. He came back
to Haiti in 1955 and 1956, to perform and record. Issa also featured Bebo on the Belle Creole label
together with a small group of musicians mainly from his large band, including tanbou drummer Ti
Marcel and possibly also his colleague, international star Ti Roro plus vocalists Rodolphe "Dòdòf"
Legros and Joe Trouillot. Three numbers by this group, from 1955, have been included here, including
an "extended text" version of the humorous Ban m pa m san dous.
Rodolphe "Dòdòf" Legros never sang with Issa's regular orchestra. He performed at the Ibo Lélé Hotel
in Pétionville with his own group in the early 1950s, a group which included among others Félix
Guignard on accordion. The engagement at the Ibo Lélé came to an end during the turbulent year 1957,
when Dòdòf left for Canada, never to return to Haiti. Dòdòf was a great songwriter, offering imaginative
kreyòl texts. The tracks included here from 1955, and possibly also 1956, were made with a group of
musicians from Issa's band, reinforced by Guignard and Bebo Valdés, who has also arranged all the
tunes except Maji nan kay.
Mats Lundahl and Louis Carl Saint Jean