Perform Locally: MOCA CAFE/Fri May 19; BAYFRONT PARK/Sun May 21
(Both shows part of 19th Annual Compas Haitian Festival)
Showtime: 11pm-1am. Tickets available through Ticketmaster. Info:(305) 945-8814 or www.facebook.com/MocaCafeLounge/; and Bayfront Park, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd., Sunday, May 21. Showtime: 4pm. Tickets available through Ticketmaster. Info: (305) 945-8814 or go to www.bayfrontparkmiami.com/.
Both shows are part of the 19th Annual Compas Haitian Festival, taking place May 19-May 23 throughout Miami.
“The first new RAM recording in a decade, Manman m se Ginen, was released last year. It’s great. RAM is a jam band, though. Like the Grateful Dead or Phish, their studio recordings only hint at their live powers.”
RAM is a mizik rasin group (a musical style created in Haiti in the 1970s when musicians began combining elements of traditional Haitian Vodou ceremonial and folkloric music with rock and roll), based in the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The band derives its name from the initials of its founder, songwriter, and lead male vocalist, Richard A. Morse. The band’s music has been described by Morse as “vodou rock ‘n’ roots”, and has been one of the prominent groups in the mizik rasin musical movement in Haiti. RAM’s music also includes influences from the blues, funk music, and occasional riffs from famed punk group The Clash. RAM began performing together in 1990, and recorded their first album in 1996. RAM’s songs include lyrics in Kreyol, French, and English.
When Morse gathered together dancers and musicians to create RAM in 1990, the rasin style was popular in Port-au-Prince and gaining popularity in the rest of the country. “Ke’m Pa Sote” by Boukman Eksperyans, whose song title translates to “I Am Not Afraid” in English, was the most popular song at the 1990 Carnival in Port-au-Prince. It was widely understood to be a criticism of the corrupt military government of General Prosper Avril. RAM adopted a similar format and together with Boukman Eksperyans and other rasin bands, developed the style and genre of protest music grounded in Vodou musical tradition. Eventually, Morse became so involved in the Vodou religion through his music that he was initiated as a houngan, or Vodou priest, in 2002. Describing a RAM concert, Morse explains, “Yes, you might see our dancers go into a trance. Some get possessed by the loas, to the rhythm of the drums, but it’s a natural state when it happens. You can’t fake it.”
RAM is famous for its regular Thursday night performances at the Hotel Oloffson in downtown Port-au-Prince, attended by hotel guests and a wide spectrum of the country’s political and racial groups. During the years of the military junta of Raoul Cedras, one of the band’s singles, “Fey”, was banned nationwide by the military authorities who perceived it to be a song of support for exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The band continued to play weekly concerts in defiance of death threats from the regime, while Morse only narrowly escaped a kidnapping at the hotel in 1994. RAM began recording albums in 1996, after United States military intervention restored Aristide to power. In 1998, the group clashed with the newly-elected mayor of Port-au-Prince, a supporter of Aristide, and survived an assassination attempt during their Carnival performance. Through its song lyrics, RAM continued to provoke the antagonism of both the supporters of Aristide and former military regimes.
In 2016 RAM released the critically-acclaimed full-length album, RAM 6:Manman me se Ginen, the band’s first studio album in ten years. “This generation is electric. But the rhythms are traditional,” said vocalist, Richard Morse. “The melodies are traditional. We have taken the ceremonial and mixed with the street. That’s when you hear the rara horns,” a mix that leaps out on tracks like “Papa Loko.” “We’ve added street music to a band, and taken more arranged band stuff out into the streets.”
RAM U.S. Spring/Summer Tour Itinerary Live Shows/Special Events
May 19 (Fri.) CAFE MOCA LOUNGE Miami, FL
May 21 (Sun.) BAYFRONT PARK Miami, FL
June 16 (Fri.) S.O.B.’S* New York City, NY
June 17 (Sat.) ROOTS OF DEVELOPMENT ARTS FEST* Washington, DC
June 18 (Sun.) CREOLE FESTIVAL Brooklyn, NY
June 22 (Thur.) VENUE TBA Philadelphia, PA
June 24 (Sat.) MUSEUM OF ART FESTIVAL* Cleveland, OH
July 1 (Sat.) HAITIAN FESTIVAL W. Palm Beach, FL
July 2 (Sun.) HAITIAN FESTIVAL W. Palm Beach, FL