“Zanmi kanmarad” by Claudette et Ti Pierre
“Zanmi kanmarad” was first released in 1979 on Claudette et Ti Pierre’s second Macaya Records album, Camionette. Information on the duo themselves beyond Discogs’ dedicated archivist community proved to be more difficult to piece together. Between Discogs, nostalgic French, English and Haitan Creole Youtube comments, plain-text websites covering Haitan music releases and sentence-long descriptors on file-sharing websites I have constructed a crude timeline for the duo that evidently touched the hearts of millions of Caribbean households:
The duo comprised of singer Claudette Pierre-Louis and composer / organist Ulrick (Ti Pierre) Pierre formed in 1977 near Port-au-Prince. Ti Pierre, born blind, learned music at a school for the handicapped. The duo released 10 albums between 1978 and 1990, touring throughout the Caribbean and Africa. During the 1991 coup in Haiti, Claudette fled to Canada and Ti Pierre was murdered in a house fire in a case of mistaken identity. One Youtube commenter, claiming to be a family friend, wrote that Claudette is alive and well with two daughters, now singing gospel music.
In stark contrast to their tragic end, the music of Claudette et Ti Pierre is joyful, tender, and exuberant. Three instruments comprise the majority of their discography: vocals, organs, and drum machine. “Zanmi kanmarad” in particular leans into complex organ harmonies that echo the synth programming of Kraftwerk. Bright organ timbres zip by their own reflections as Claudette’s spectral voice erupts from the bed of electronics, urging men to respect their mothers’ labor and sacrifices. I think of peppermint, crystallized dew and yesterday’s blanket of dusk.