Vo-Duo | Nou La

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World: Creole Jazz: World Fusion Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Nou La

by Vo-Duo

Inspired by the sacred Vodou music traditions of Haiti, guitarist/vocalist Monvelyno Alexis and percussionist Markus Schwartz incorporate elements of "Mizik Rasin", Jazz and Rock into a uniquely original and modern improvisational duet context.
Genre: World: Creole
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Bonjou
2:03 $2.00
2. Alegba Gran Chimen
6:46 $2.00
3. Pale Mal
4:38 $2.00
4. Kouzen
4:20 $2.00
5. Wongol
4:49 $2.00
6. Frelele
4:44 $2.00
7. Simbi Makaya
5:24 $2.00
8. Zilibo
5:35 $2.00
9. Gede Men Lajan
7:20 $2.00
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Nou La (“We’re Here”) is the first album by Vo-Duo, a group recently formed by guitarist Monvelyno Alexis and percussionist Markus Schwartz in Brooklyn, NY. The pair extends the legacy of the Haitian Mizik Rasin (roots music) and Sanba (singer/poet) movements, which developed in the early 1980s in Port-au-Prince, into the contemporary New York City world/jazz scene. The nine-song record features original compositions and arrangements from the Vodou (traditional Afro-Haitian religion/spiritual expression incorporating song, drum and dance) repertoire pared down to a duo format for voice, drums, and guitar. The album brings this localized style to New York, arguably the heart of the Haitian jazz scene, harmonizing traces of both worlds and pushing the boundary of roots music for wide audiences.

The clever name of the group captures the thematic content of Nou La, which begins with the Alexis’ opening acapella composition “Bonjou.” Vo-Duo says “bonjou” with a salute to the sacred Asoto drum, then to the lwa-s (spirits), and finally to all listeners, roping them into the spiritual realm as well. Once initiated, listeners experience a deeply personal album with complex musicality. On the group’s arrangement of Sanba Zao’s “Frelele” (The Struggle), Schwartz lays down a Yanvalou rhythm, interwoven with a spicy Kongo/Manbo pattern from Lakou Soukri in Gonaives. The coda features both artists employing tanbou a bouch, a style of audibly “scatting” the onomatopoeic tones of the drums. On the folk standard “Pale Mal” (Bad Talk), Alexis’ jazzy minor chord progressions are warmed with a tasteful amount of reverb and reveal the guitarist’s deep connection to the legendary song. Over a restrained Mayi rhythm, they create sweet vocal harmonies throughout, capturing the emotion of being roped into the gossip or “pale mal” of others, “mwen nan mitan yo” (“I’m stuck in the middle of it all”).

Alexis uses his platform as songwriter and performer to express the intimate and complex connection that many Haitians have with Vodou, an integral part of their daily lives and overall creative output. He is a poet in the Sanba tradition, which he experienced firsthand with Louis Lesly Marcelin (Sanba Zao) in his Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Carrefour-Feuilles. He learned the flute in high school, as well as folkloric arts and history at l’Ecole Nationale des Arts (ENARTS) and guitar at the Berklee College of Music. Schwartz, born in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a well-regarded percussionist on the Haitian music scene. He studied Haitian drumming with Jean-Raymond Giglio of the influential Rasin group Foula, and then traveled extensively to Haiti, learning in many lakou-s (Vodou communities) throughout the island. Stylistically, his drum-set up includes Haitian tambou (traditional hand drum), cajon (a hollow, boxlike instrument of Peruvian origin), bells, tambourine, and ride/crash cymbals. The resulting “hybrid” sound is distinctively his own, with the occasional live addition of electronics, as well as some other bells and whistles (literally).
Nou La is an important album by two musicians fluent in Haitian folkloric music who realized its potential after meeting in NYC’s jazz scene. Listeners are assured that this stripped-down, well-mastered jazzy record by two of today’s best Haitian jazz musicians accomplishes its goal of extending the roots traditions in the Tenth Department*.

*Haitian term for the Haitian diaspora population (living abroad)

- Kevin Mason, (originally published in the Haitian Studies Association Newsletter)



to write a review


The creative and inviting sound of Vo-Duo
An extreme joy of organic music that takes you to another level. It encourages positive reflection and helps you find your lost soul. Each song presents a story and the rhythm is smoothly crossing you over towards your spiritual journey.

Kassan Khalil

New levels of sound
This project between two dedicated, spiritual and talented musicians has produced an album that reaches into so many traditional aspects of Haitian sound while creating a distinctive contemporary voice and beat. Love it! Can't wait for more.

Melanie Charles

An important piece of art.
Listening to "Nou La" The album is amazing. Definitely on the list of my fave albums. The melodies and rhythms are hypnotic. Thank you for such a beautiful piece of work!

Adam Hinz

Roots, Jazz, and More
Influenced by Haitian rhythms and jazz, Vo-Duo pays homage to multiple musical forms by taking them to a new level that is not wed to either tradition. Rather they creatively use them both to deliver a unique sound.
Markus’ approach to jazz and Haitian rhythms, combined with his hybrid petwo drum/cajon/cymbal drum set, provide an opportunity for every percussionist and drummer to learn and hear something new. Always playing to the music, Markus leaves space for Monvelyno’s lyrical and melodic phrases to be heard and enjoyed, while accentuating them with flashes of his virtuosity. In addition, Monvelyno’s ability to use his voice as a rhythmic and melodic force almost makes Vo-Duo sound more like Vo-Trio without any extra personnel.
As a duo, Markus and Monvelyno create a sonic landscape that is cosmic, leaving listeners feeling like they are free of gravity as they watch musical ideas float by. Grab your headphones, find your favorite place to listen to music, and enjoy this interstellar show.

Barry Diament

Soul-nurturing, joyful music!
An absolute joy to master. I sat in the studio smiling and grooving all the way through. Then I played the album again. Then I took a CD-R to listen to in the car.

This is one of those albums that just *feels* really, really good.
It is what music is all about - it feeds the soul.
Congratulations Markus and Monvelyno!


Vo Duo "Nou La" release @ Inkwell Jazz Cafe
"Distilled from timeless Haitian traditional rhythms and the artists' contemporary jazz sensibility, a precisely pronounced dialogue unfolded that as a listener, i found entrancing and challenging."

Phil Nerestan

Fresh ,Intimate versions of beloved Haitian Vodou songs and soaring new tunes.Markus Schwartz & Monvelyno Alexis hit it out the Box with this recording!!!Congrats gentleman !!


The creative and inviting sound of VO-DUO
An extreme joy of organic music that takes you to another level, where you can positively reflect and find your lost soul. Each song presents a story and the rhythm is smoothly crossing you over toward your spiritual journey.