Lakou Mizik is a collective of Haitian musicians that formed to heal and inspire after the disastrous earthquake of 2010. It was founded by the guitarist and singer Steeve Valcourt, the son of the Haitian musical icon Boulo Valcourt, with the singer Jonas Attis and the American producer Zach Niles, who had previously helped to popularize Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. They gathered an all-star cast of vocalists, rara horn players, guitarists, and more from multiple generations of mizik rasin, or Haitian roots music, including master drummer Sanba Zao.
Haiti’s rasin movement took shape circa 1990, after the downfall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, when groups such as Boukman Eksperyans and RAM began to modernize and electrify the singing, dancing, and drumming of Haitian vodou music for a new generation. Lakou Mizik are their inheritors, carrying on the delicate balancing act of preservation and evolution on albums such as Haitianola, which explored the country’s cultural connections with New Orleans via collaborations with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Leyla McCalla, and others.
Lakou Mizik partnered with the Grammy-winning electronic producer Joseph Ray to suffuse the music of Kanaval with contemporary pop on Leave the Bones, released in 2021. “Through Vodou chants, rara dance tunes, and contemporary protest songs, the album is a mesmerizing, haunting, and uplifting journey into the heart of Haitian culture,” according to NPR’s World Café. In the video for “Ogou (Pran Ka Mwen),” a majestically hovering electro-pop single, beautifully filmed images of preparations for a festival translate Lakou Mizik’s message of resilience and jubilance into any language.