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Global Music Column – December

Jowee Omicil – Spiritual Healing: Bwa Kayiman Freedom Suite

In August 1791, a group of enslaved Haitians met in the woods of Bois Caïman, on the north coast of Haiti, and conducted a secret Vodou ceremony that planted the seeds for the Haitian Revolution. This collective ritual, which would go on to inspire a mass uprising, now forms the energetic inspiration for Haitian saxophonist Jowee Omicil’s latest album, Spiritual Healing: Bwa Kayiman Freedom Suite. Over an hour, Omicil transposes the imagined energy of the ceremony into a free jazz interpretation, switching between several woodwinds and brass while accompanied by percussion, keys and bass.

The album opens minimally, with Omicil vocalising over plaintive snatches of saxophone melody, guttural bass clarinet and rattles of percussionist Yoann Danier’s ka drum. Sweeping his hand across the surface of the drum as if replicating the rustle of forest leaves, Danier situates the listener in the imagined setting of Bois Caïman before Omicil punctures the soothing soundscape with a clarion call on cornet. That forceful entry signifies much of what is to come: compositions that build a certain comfortable mood before switching tack and upending expectations.

Read the review in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 08/12/23]

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