Frisner Augustin | The Intimate Touch

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The Intimate Touch

by Frisner Augustin

The compositions on this album share more than a dozen styles of classic, sacred Haitian drumming through the palms, the fingertips, and the soul of an award-winning musician.
Genre: World: Drumming
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Triptik
7:58 album only
2. Balanse
7:25 album only
3. Kanaval
1:02 album only
4. Nan Pwovens
2:53 album only
5. Dous Pike
9:19 album only
6. Kwaze Lewit
0:21 album only
7. Kawolin Kouri
0:19 album only
8. Swaaa
8:14 album only
9. Djab
1:20 album only
10. Nkita
0:37 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Full album notes with analysis of the artist's style are available free at


Frisner Augustin, Congas
Jean Jean-Pierre, Producer
Paul Uhry Newman, Radio Nèg Mawon Co-producer
Joe Quesada, Recording Engineer
Chantal Regnault, Photos
Lois Wilcken, Album Notes

Frisner Augustin: A Short Trip through His Life

Master Drummer Frisner Augustin came into this world on March 1, 1948, under a tree outside the general hospital of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His mother waited for a room, but none was available. The neighborhood he grew up in, which bordered the city's Grand Cemetery, lacked material means but cultivated the greatest Afro-Haitian traditions. The Vodou houses of Frisner's community educated him, and his uncle, drummer Catelus Laguerre, inspired him to take up drumming. The boy saw it as a way to earn a living and support his family, but his trade was a calling as well, and he once detailed how Ogou, the Vodou lwa (spirit) of power and combat, spoke to him through a priest-medium and arranged for his formal initiation as a ountògi (drummer).

During his youth and into his early adulthood, Frisner beat the drum for the Vodou houses of his and other surrounding communities. He was playing for a dance just west of Port-au-Prince when André Germain, a choreographer for the national dance company, scouted him out and offered him his first professional engagement. In the following years he drummed for such distinguished women as classical musician Lina Mathon Blanchet, African-American dancer Lavinia Williams, and choreographer and dance teacher Viviane Gauthier. Work took him around the Caribbean and to Nigeria. In 1972, while playing in New York with the Vodou jazz group Jazz des Jeunes, he decided to make New York his home.

For the next forty years, Frisner Augustin rose to the rank of cultural ambassador, serving the social and creative needs of the Haitian immigrant community, re-educating the general public about Vodou through the power of his drum, and paving the way for other Haitian drummers who set up shop in New York. He fulfilled this role in both the emergent Vodou houses of the city and on the stages of theaters, festivals, and educational institutions. In 1981 he assumed the position of Artistic Director of La Troupe Makandal and held the position until his death. In 1998, the cultural center City Lore recognized his contributions by inducting him into its People's Hall of Fame, and the National Endowment for the Arts followed in 1999 with its prestigious National Heritage Fellowship. His other honors include a Certificate of Achievement from the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, Peniel Guerier's Kriye Bode award, a plaque from the children's company Tonèl Lakay, and an award from community station Radio Nago.

The maestro traveled to Haiti often during his residence in New York, staying most of the time in the community he grew up in. The community suffered in the earthquake of 2010. Makandal responded with targeted assistance to it, and Frisner visited more frequently from then on. During a visit in the winter of 2012, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage while in Haiti and passed away four days later, on February 28, in the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince. His body rests in the Grand Cemetery, where he had built a mausoleum for his family. Frisner's spirit then passed through the cycle of Vodou death rites, and his govi now stands on his altar in Brooklyn.

Frisner Augustin was survived by his father, Julien Augustin; one sister, Marie Lourdes Augustin; six children (Garry Augustin, Gregory Augustin, Dominique Augustin Rosa, Nicolas Breland, Niguel Breland, and Courtney Mathurin); and five grandchildren.

The Tracks

Triptik (transliteration of the French "triptyque," a three-paneled picture or sculpture of the visual arts world) paints three contrasting sonic panels: nago and zepòl, styles that invoke the warrior spirit Ogou; djouba and kontredans, a pair of countryside dances; and ibo, which recalls the pride and resistance to slavery of the Igbo ancestors from Nigeria.

Balanse (Swing) blends the undulating feel of the Rada styles yanvalou and zepòl with a warm-up to Carnival.

Kanaval (Carnival) takes you on a whirlwind, hip-gyrating tour along the streets of Port-au-Prince to the classic beat of Carnival.

In Nan Pwovens (In the Countryside) the styles kontredans (the black twist on the English country dance), djouba (a call to the spirits of the earth), and abitan (the peasant's dance) take you on a rustic tour.

For Dous Pike (Sweet and Spicy) Frisner mixes Rada cool (yanvalou, parigòl and mayi) and the heat of Carnival in a special sonic brew, only to segue into Vodou djaz, a style of his own invention but in the Rada lineage.

Kwaze Lewit (Cross the Eight, a Haitian Kreyòl reference to the choreographing of four couples in square formation) takes you on a breathless run through the style also know as kontredans.

Kawolin Kouri (Caroline Runs) catches a cameo appearance of the legendary and mysterious Kawolin Akawo, who drove men mad as she swirled her skirt to the beat of kongo.

In Swaaa Frisner savors the swing of Latin music and its African roots in common with Vodou; tries out an assortment of licks; falls into the seductive kongo on a sexy slide across the skin (called siye); and slips into the waltzy feel of afranchi, a style that recalls the elegance that free blacks so easily appropriated.

Djab (Devil) This one takes you on a short but spicy ride through petwo, the hot side of the Vodou planet. Take pleasure in its multiple peaks and valleys.

Nkita memorializes the nkita—kikongo for the spirits of those who died violently—in the style Haitian Vodou calls kita. Frisner condensed it here to half minute of pure passion.



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