tue 07/07/2020

Album: Moonlight Benjamin - Simido | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Moonlight Benjamin - Simido

Album: Moonlight Benjamin - Simido

Haitian Vodou queen with the deep voice

Moonlight, the Vodou queen

Moonlight Benjamin, the fierce and deep-voiced vocalist from Haiti, is a powerful presence on stage. On her second album, she is once again supported by a tight cohort of French musicians led by guitarist Matthis Pascal, who has written the music for Moonlight’s Creole lyrics. The band play raunchy yet sophisticated blues, tinged with the bounce of Guadeloupean Zouk, as on the opening track "Nap Chape" and a good dose of pile-driving heavy rock, ably demonstrated on songs such as "Tchoule" and "Belekou".

Moonlight Benjamin has a rich contralto voice, at time seductively soft and at others almost violent, as if she were channelling the dark and thunderous anger of the god Ogou Chango, the Haitian manifestation of the Yoruba Shango. She summons at one point of the Vodou god Kafou (Creole for Carrefour), the spirit that lurks at crossroads, the same one most likely that taught Robert Johnson to play the deep blues, in the Mississippi Delta, a place haunted by beliefs that resonate with Haitian religious practices and belief.

The band are experts at creating a hypnotic groove, as on "Salwe", setting a pace that never lets up, builds on the power of repetition and its ability to transport the listener beyond the linear expectations of conventional pop and rock songwriting. The combination of rock and African-syle where the rhythm guitar plays melody and the lead shares in the flow of polyrhythmic beats is at times reminiscent of the English band Foals, who pioneered this vibrant combination a few years back.

As a primarily live band, there is a slightly disappointing but predictable absence of musical variety – these guys go instead for immediacy and maximum impact. But the common African roots of Caribbean music, rock and blues are conjoined here with delicious sensuality, crowned by Moonlight’s soul-filled Vodou priestess’s voice.

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