Break the Chain

With Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in exile and a military junta once again in power, you’d think that the only possible musical response would be despair. But the nine burbling tracks on Break the Chain work as dance-happy metaphors for the Haitian people’s bottomless resilience. Led by percussionist Clifford Sylvain, the Brooklyn-based Rara Machine is a marvelous balancing act that keeps one foot in island roots (rhythms pulled from voodoo ritual and the traditional festival music known as rara) and the other in modern recording technique (rock guitar, drum programming, shiny pop production). The title cut and a handful of other songs are obvious keep-the-faith messages to Haitians inside and outside the country, but the presiding tone is summed up in song titles like ”Hot, Spicy Woman (Man Man Pimba)” .” Still, as intricate percussion collides with jeering horn choruses and merry backup harmonies, it’s clear that the group’s ebullience can be a political statement all by itself. B+

Break the Chain
  • Music