RAM encompasses a musical style created in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the 1970s when musicians began combining elements of traditional Haitian Vodou ceremonial and folkloric music with rock and roll. The band derives its name from the initials of its founder, songwriter, and lead male vocalist, Richard A. Morse. RAM’s music has been described by Morse as “vodou rock ‘n’ roots” and 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. 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.”
IndiePulse Music recently had the opportunity to interview RAM founder Richard Morse while the group is on it’s Spring/Summer U.S. Tour. Here’s how it went.
IPM: Being that RAM is Haitian-based, what have been the biggest challenges for you in growing your band there?
RM: I grew up in New England and spent a lot of time in New Jersey. My dad is from Connecticut, my mom is Haitian. My biggest challenge with the band was
- a) learning Haitian culture, and
- b) finding out that when the Haitian government doesn’t like your lyrics, they come after you!
IPM: What are the main sounds influencing and defining the RAM ‘sound’?
RM: I was exposed to all kinds of music growing up.. Sly & the Family Stone, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Wilson Picket, Aretha, pop radio, punk rock, all kinds of music..and my mom, a singer/dancer, always sang traditional Haitian songs with Haitian rhythms.
IPM: Finish this sentence: Someone attending a RAM concert should expect….
RM: …to end up dancing and enjoying themselves! Some folks like to sit back drink and watch________?
IPM: When you come to America with your band, all of whom are of Haitian descent, what do they all cite as some of the most discernible differences between the two countries?
RM: First of all, Haiti is 99% Black…The living conditions are very different, and of course, most people in the USA are speaking English!!
IPM: What new goals did you set out to accomplish during the group’s current U.S. tour?
RM: We’re a band that gigs a lot. We like people to enjoy themselves. Get away from your day-to-day issues and enjoy the music
IPM: RAM’s main vocalist, Lunise Morse, is also your wife. How did you two first meet?
RM: Lunise was dancing in a Haitian Folklore troupe. She was mesmerizing! We got married and I turned the dance troupe into a band.
IPM: Taking a slight detour here, do you feel the recent election of Donal Trump to U.S. President will influence anything that happens on Haiti?
RM: Most American presidents don’t understand Haiti.. It’s a long story.
IPM: Recording- and or video-wise, what can we look forward to from RAM this year?
RM: Our next album RAM7 is currently being mixed by Grammy-winning producer Andrew Weiss. Should be great!! That, and we’re back on the road. We’ll visiting new venues and cities in the U.S. and around the world.
IPM: Being an expatriate, what are some of the things you miss the most about the U.S.?
RM: I try and get back to the States as often as possible. I love New England, which is where I grew up…but Haiti has the rhythms!!! Hahaha!!
IPM: Where can people keep up with the latest goings-on about RAM (i.e. website, Facebook etc.)?
RM: We’re on Twitter, @RAMhaiti, Facebook (www.facebook.com/RAMHaiti2015) and our music is available on most of the music- selling sites. We have a couple of videos on Ramhaiti.com. Search and you’ll find us.