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A Hot Haitian Combo

NEW KIDS IN TOWN

July 03, 1988|DON SNOWDEN

Band: Tabou Combo.

Personnel: Core members: Roger Eugene, lead vocals; Elysee Pyronneau, lead guitar; Yvon Andre, percussion, vocals; Jean Yves Joseph, congas, vocals; Herman Nau, drums, vocals. (Seven additional musicians are in the current lineup.)

History: Tabou Combo, the leading band in the Haitian pop style known as \o7 compas\f7 , was formed 20 years ago by teen-age brothers Albert and Adolphe Chancy and some of their buddies. After winning a TV talent contest in 1969, the band became one of Haiti's most popular ensembles before breaking up when Albert left to attend college in 1970. Most of the original members independently migrated to New York after the split and the group re-formed behind Adolphe Chancy in Brooklyn in 1971. "New York City," a million-seller in Europe, gave Tabou Combo an international foothold in 1974. The group consolidated its audience with regular tours of Europe and the Caribbean and by playing to the West Indian communities on the East Coast in the United States. Tabou Combo has released more than 20 albums. The latest, "Tabou Combo Super Stars," incorporates some elements of the closely related \o7 zouk\f7 style (the current rage among international pop fans) without sacrificing the \o7 compas\f7 component. Bandleader Adolphe Chancy recently left the group.

Sound: \o7 Compas\f7 is a hybrid of indigenous Haitian rhythms and musical leftovers from the French colonial legacy. Originally performed by brass-heavy big bands in the 1940s, \o7 compas\f7 changed its shape when groups like Tabou Combo transferred the horn parts to electric guitars in the post-Beatles era. In Tabou Combo's hands, it's a light, buoyant sound driven by loping rhythms, delicately interwoven guitar lines and flashing horn punctuations. The band also injects American funk and rap elements on occasion, but the vocals are usually unison chants sung in creole French patois. From all reports, the language isn't carrying any blistering social commentary on the state of Haitian life--Tabou Combo is apparently a party-hearty band out of the "forget your troubles and dance" school.

Shows: Ukrainian Cultural Center on Friday; Music Machine, next Sunday.

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