All of the triumph over travail that has instilled such justified pride and vitality in Haiti over the last three decades is distilled in the music of RAM. Infusing homegrown forms such as kompa, rara, twoubadou, and vodou with rock influences, the band has been bringing a progressive vision of tradition to popular audiences since the 1990s, when it kickstarted the Haitian roots music movement known as mizik rasin.
RAM is named after founder Richard A. Morse, whose mother was a famed Haitian singer and whose father was a leading Caribbean Studies scholar. Morse grew up in Puerto Rico and the U.S. before moving to Port-au-Prince to manage the Hotel Oloffson, where RAM, the band he formed with his wife, Lunise Exume, and a group of local dancers and musicians, made its name in a long-running, star-studded Thursday-night residency.
While mixing Haitian roots with modern styles and English lyrics with Haitian Creole, RAM has also mixed art and politics, projecting a powerful voice against oppression despite the risks to personal safety and career. In the early nineties, during the junta of Raoul Cédras, the song “Fèy” was banned for its perceived support of the exiled President Aristide. There were more clashes to come; Morse has survived kidnapping and assassination attempts. Throughout it all has been the music, ancient and alive, as was last captured on the album RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen in 2016, which a Vice profile hailed as its strongest studio recording yet.