Lan Gran Chemen M te ye Tout moun pase Ap ri mwen Lan Gran Chemen M te ye Kolobri, Lapli tonbe Mwen pa mouye… (As sung by Azor) *Woukoukou, Woukoukou, Woukoukou
On the circle of life I stood As everyone passed And laughed On the circle of life I stood Like a hummingbird, It rained I did not get wet at all… (An interpretation) *Woukoukou, Woukoukou, Woukoukou
Azor lived a short but productive life.He left us at age 46, having travelled the world as an ambassador of Hatian Traditional Music.He produced 7 CDs under the title of his group, Racine Mapou de Azor.The name of the group alone speaks of his attachment to the Ginen Tradition of Haiti. He brought joy to many at his concerts, in carnival, or just over one’s stereo system.His group is called Rasin (Racine) to give voice to the simple truth that our culture, our music, our faith is rooted in our Ancestry.Most Haitian Ancestors are from the West Coast of Africa and Azor was proud of the heritage that he was heir to.His name Azor is selected from the Azores Islands off the coast of Africa. Azor was a proud Eritye Ginen, meaning a descendant of Guinea, the former name for the African West Coast. To accentuate his heritage, at his performances, he would wear an agbada, a traditional Rada outfit from the northern part of Ginen. His favorite drum was the Kongo drum, from the southern part of Ginen.He painted those drums in red and yellow, two colors chosen from the colors that the people of the Kongo used to draw the crossroad, the symbol of the intersection of the world of the living with that of the Ancestors.This intersection is often drawn with a circle at its center, called Gran Chemen. In the song above, Azor speaks of being protected by the Ancestors while on Gran Chemen. Despite adversity, despite being mocked and laughed at by others who lacked faith and respect for African tradition, Azor stood proudly, singing of his heritage throughout the world. The song cites the hummingbird, kolobri, to highlight protection received at the crossroad. This is because despite rainfall, the bird’s skin remains dry, protected by its feathers. The song makes that protection analogous to the sense of security and certitude commonly expressed as being comfortable in one’s skin. Such comfort makes one proudly stand out as one element of the diversity of the human family.In the song, Azor cites Gede, the Lwa of the crossroad who guards Gran Chemen, the Circle of Life.Gede was himself an Ancestor from the Gedevi Dahomean people. Azor was a Fran Ginen who never failed to pay tribute to the Ancestors. His group is called Mapou because that tree, the Kapok, is the largest tree of the Caribbean and it is an awesome symbol of the Ginen Heritage that cherishes the dignity of our foreparents.To Haitians, the mapou tree was reminiscent of the Loko tree of West Africa and like Papa Loko, it became the symbol of the grandeur of our heritage. To show this, in Haiti it is said that the mapou is the repository of Papa Loko. Azor chose the name mapou well because his CDs are a repository of Haitian Vodou Music.Azor has left us; he has moved further along Gran Chemen, but like many other great Ancestors, his legacy lives on. We are forever grateful to Azor, knowing full well that we are just a step behind, as we too will one day follow Azor to join the Ancestors on Gran Chemen. Our condolences to his family and to his group Racine Mapou de Azor.
*Woukoukou, woukoukou, woukoukou *(Wou and koukou are Gedevi Dahomean words. Wou means to cry or to wail. Koukou means death. Woukoukou is a mournful cry heard at traditional vigils and funerals).
A Bookmanlit tribute by Yvrose and Jerry Gilles July 19, 2011