Haitian Suite

In Brief

  • Title: Haitian Suite.
  • Musician: Alberto Mesirca, gitaar.
  • Identification: Basta 30-9302-2.
  • Recording dates: November 2010, MCO Studio 10, Hilversum, Holland.
  • Issue: 2011.

On Sunday by Frantz Casseus


In my childhood years, my mother had a portable gramophone and two record cases, one for singles and one for EPs and LPs. At rare occasions, she dug up the gramophone and the cases, for us as children it was an enjoyable adventure to open the cases and browse through all singles in order to choose what to play.

One of these singles was Hava Nagila by Harry Belafonte. I even guess that Matilda and Island in the Sun were there too.

In those days, like in the present ones, the singers got the name, the glory and the image on the record sleeve. The studio musicians were less lucky, with a bit of goodwill they landed in the line-up on the sleeve, on LP sleeves that is, because the singles had little space for extra text. In that way the guitarists Millard Thomas and Frantz Casseus remained unknown.

Frantz Casseus (1915 – 1993) originated from Haïti, one of the first independent states in the Caribbean. In his year of birth, however, Haiti was occupied by the United States in protection of their economic interests in mainly sugar and cotton. This happened after many years of putsches and counter-putsches that brought the country on the brink of complete human and economic disaster.

Consequently, Casseus in his youth got in touch with traditional Haitian music as well as foreign styles such as jazz from the US. He took off to the states and developed a style of composition for classical guitar that used the folk music of Haiti as the basis of contemporary music, just like Villa-Lobos integrated the traditional Brazilian music from the streets in his classical compositions.

Casseus composed various works, amongst others the Haitian Suite and wrote them down in a private sketch book full of manuscripts. His work would have disappeared into oblivion, if his pupil Marc Ribot had not been there. Besides playing and recording pieces by his teacher, he also fixed attention to Casseus’ music. As a result, we have this recording by the Italian guitarist Alberto Mesirca.

This recording has the unique feature that composer and guitarist are a match, causing the emotions and musical aspects that usually are not noted down in the score to arrive with the listener in an incredibly transparent manner. This turns the Haitian Suite into an extremely interesting guided tour across Haitian musical forms, keeping the signature of both composer and player.

The well finished tone and clear balance in colours of Mesirca’s play make this album a pleasure to listen to and to relax in an almost meditative atmosphere. Moreover, the modest yet very detailed and transparent recording technique adds considerably to the atmosphere of the album.

The language of the music on Haitian Suite is clearly understandable and not only for mature listeners! Our cats have a remarkable preference for the CD, lying down and relaxing in front of the speakers as soon as the music started. Our young granddaughter Iris (about 13 months) appeared to like the CD too, with various pieces she ran to the speakers, listened with ears cocked and started to dance and swing to the music in her own manner.

Apparently, this music includes more than you observe at first sight! In my opinion this CD is an obligatory purchase for the demanding listener of guitar music. Highly recommended!

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