by John Storm Roberts
The band's relative recent success outside its core community led to hit-hunting that marred its 1989 release. Happily, however, there's little of it in this Zenith set, recorded at a gig in Paris. This double album (also available on video) has plenty of zouk influence, but on the whole it's a return to the band's '80s sound at its best.
Tabou Combo is Haiti’s most famous group. Together for over 30 years, they have toured worldwide and are celebrated as the ‘ambassadors of Kompa’ – the popular Haitian dance rhythm sung in French, English, Spanish and Creole. Their story started in 1967 in a small church in Haiti where two musicians, Albert Chancy Jr and Herman Nau, played their first show. Very soon they formed a band and went on the road, playing live all over the island and winning the Radio Haiti award for ‘Best Musical Group of the Year (1969). The following year the group moved to Brooklyn, playing their first New York show in December 1970 – the beginning of a long international career. Tabou Combo’s music is aimed squarely at the dancefloor – mixing Haitian Meringue, Rara (vodoun percussion) with Kompa and elements of Brazilian music, soukous and funk. Their phenomenal popularity has given them an important standing in Haitian society and they use their lyrics to defend the poor, denouncing the oppression of black people in their songs. They are also committed to countering the negative image of their country, and have founded the association “Manger, lire et espérer” (Eat, Read and Hope) to help combat the main problems in Haiti – hunger and illiteracy – and to hope for better days.