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Soundkeeper Recordings

Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn: Kay Sa

Epistrophy (Rara)

Written by Thelonius Monk and Kenneth Clarke, ©Embassy Music Corporation and Music Sales Corporation
Arranged by Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn

Rara is a form of processional music from Haiti with roots in central Africa, that is associated with Vodou, carnival music, and social protest movements. Raras have been known to head out walking for days or even weeks and cover up to a hundred miles through the Haitian countryside. The main instruments are bamboo horns called vaksinn. Each horn plays a single note in a linear rhythmic and melodic foundation, a technique known in western musical terms as hocket.

The melody and rhythm of Epistrophy evoked a Rara feeling for me, especially in the recently discovered Live at Carnegie Hall performances featuring the legendary John Coltrane and the great Shadow Wilson on drums. I brought the idea and basic arrangement to the musicians who embraced and expanded on it. Bobby plays bass and vaksinn simultaneously. I play tanbou (Haitian drum) with one hand, along with shaker and cajon foot pedals with my feet, while simultaneously playing a vaksinn. Monvelyno joins in on fè, a piece of iron struck as a timekeeper, while Godwin plays Rara figures on the sax when not playing the melody or improvising over the Epistrophy form. In this way, we attempt to evoke the sound of a Rara band, while paying homage to one of the most prolific composers and seminal figures in the history of Black American Music of the last 101 years, Thelonious Sphere Monk!

Markus Schwartz: Haitian Petwo drums, cajon, miscellaneous percussion, vaksinn (bamboo horn)
Monvelyno Alexis: electric guitar, Haitian fè (iron bell)
Bobby Raymond: contrabass, vaksinn
Godwin Louis: alto saxophone

Listen to a sample