The New List | In homage to Dieudonné Larose

His name is Dieudonne Larose. For many, he will remain the voice of “Mandela”, “Unfall” or even “Joli minou”. This music was carried by an orchestra that competed with no one and could become absolute hits.

Anyone who didn’t hum “Mandela”, “Unfall” or “Joli minou” in the 90s wasn’t in Haiti or in the diaspora. Those who didn’t shudder when Larose brought them on stage, and that part of the audience old enough to still appreciate those successes, sang at the top of their lungs, weren’t music lovers.

From Shoogar Combo to Larose and Missile 727, through DP Express and Méridional de Montréal to the pinnacle of his current solo career, Larose has also recorded 43 years of professional career, 31 albums and dozens of songs waiting to be released. Portrait of a singer with a unique intonation who thrives on music and… love.

It’s almost noon when we meet Dieudonné Larose at the airport in Newark, New Jersey for this interview. The meeting with a 77-year-old gentleman does not take place. The person at the meeting point is slim, straight and smiling. If he has white hair, it’s hardly noticeable. Larose looks thirty years younger than he is. The voice is composed and calm, another surprise for those who know how to light up crowds with her special way of singing. However, he says he is shy. So there is one Larose on stage and another private.

This Saturday at the end of spring, the artist is preparing to fly to Europe, where he has to give concerts and start negotiations for the possible launch of his own clothing brand. But he’s at the airport more than six hours early. What a surprise !

“I am very punctual, I always arrive much earlier, imagine my agony when I was in the music groups! The musicians give you an appointment at 10 a.m., they arrive at noon,” I hear him say on the phone to his interlocutor, who is surprised that he is already standing at the airline’s counter, which is still closed.

When he ends his call to focus on our date, we have enough time to examine this gentleman, who has just celebrated his 77th birthday, closely. He was born on June 5, 1945, he confirms. He shows his age with this streetwear look, which he sports in this white tracksuit set, which consists of an open zip jacket atop a white shirt, which rests on his slightly extravagant jewelry. He can say that he keeps his line thanks to a simple diet, a philosophy of life in which love for one’s neighbor is paramount, natural juices whose secret he has, one remains perplexed!

Larose, this Larose we love so much, is he really 77 years old? The secret of his eternal youth will remain a secret. “People might not believe it, but it is,” he says, too proud to be missing even a tooth at his age.

an autodidact

Born in Port-au-Prince, Dieudonné Larose spent his childhood between the capital and the city of cabaret. His mother Marie Thérèse Josaphat is a real music lover. “She danced every rhythm and every style,” recalls Larose, nostalgic for the lullabies she sang to him. Her father, Jean Larose, is a voodoo priest. Between the Fabre Nicolas Geffrard high school and the Toussaint Louverture high school, he completed his primary and secondary education up to Rheto. He then completes an extra-occupational degree. “Life wasn’t easy for us,” he recalls, as if suddenly realizing how far he’s come. In fact, not everything was written in advance for this singer, composer and drummer.

Dieudonné Larose is primarily self-taught. A man who, through observation and practice, has managed to penetrate the mechanics of things. With the passion of those who know they have no choice but to survive, young Dieudonné rolled his belly everywhere. “We have so little oversight, you have to touch 50 things to hope to feed on the fruit of one. He played soccer, learned karate, which he eventually taught, and assisted his father as a pastry chef at the famous Boulangerie Saint-Marc. He still likes to cook today. “I was very smart. As soon as I saw someone do something, I knew that if I put my mind to it, I could do it too. So far I’m studying, doing personal research. If you only go to school and neglect your homework, it’s a waste of time. Education comes first and foremost from oneself,” suggests the one who is currently studying sound.

He learned to sew at the age of 15 after a disappointment with a tailor. “I remember asking him to make me clothes for a party. When I went to pick up my suit on the agreed day, he told me he didn’t have time to start. I remember crying. Since then, I’ve made it my goal to learn to sew.” Years later, he perfected his craft and continues to sew his own stage costumes to this day. “I always want to be different. When you’re on stage, it’s important to shine. Sometimes you don’t find that sparkle in stores, it’s up to you to create it,” says Dieudonné Larose, an artist through and through.

A rocky career

“I grew up in a musical universe. I can’t tell you when I started singing, se wè mm wè m pran mikwo an,” explains the man who began his career as an amateur on stages of which he has very vague memories. He remembers the troupe “Lovers of Literature” to which the singer Barbara Guillaume introduced her, recalls that beautiful era of Haitian theater when we played Pèlen Tèt, Ti Sentaniz. It developed in small groups like Las Mariachis, Compas Express, Africa Express or Friends Connection. But the trigger comes when Shoogar Combo discovers him performing with the group Friends Connection in Pétion-Ville. His career as a professional singer began with the Shoogar Combo. He used to have fun.

It all started at Place St-Pierre, says Larose, who in 1982 joined this team of already professional musicians who offered him the support he needed. Three months later he starts touring with this group in Haiti and abroad. An enriching experience that allows him to reach maturity. The band broke up after three years. Dieudonné Larose can be found on almost five albums with Shoogar Combo, including some hits like “Manman”. “It was my first song, my first success, I composed it with Adrien Dupuy”, specifies Dieudonné Larose.

Then we find Dieudonné Larose in DP Express, one of the most popular groups of the ’80s, an experience he describes as moving, extraordinary. But even that will only be for a short time. 1986 is the end of the Duvalier rule. With the political crisis it is very difficult to keep making music. He left for Canada on July 17, 1987. “It is a date that shaped me a lot. I did not want to go. But circumstances forced me to do it. The country had become uninhabitable. And I already had a wife and three children, not to mention my mother and other family members. I didn’t go for myself. I was famous, I could have done it on my own, but I did it for my family. I arrived in Canada alone. I had nobody but Larose…”.

In Canada, Larose had told himself that he would only care about his work and studies. But the reputation of the music was not long in coming. And of course he can’t resist. He picks up the mic again, making a short passage inside the Dixie Band, strikes an agreement with Méridional de Montréal that will lead to “Larose and Missile 727”. But once again the collective adventure does not last. The group broke up in 1991 after an international tour. There was a problem between the band’s management and the musicians. They put it on my account. But the truth is that the musicians wanted to change management. When they spoke to the owner about it, he explained to them that if he broke the contract, the musicians would have to agree to fulfill the contract he had with me by keeping me. And that’s when they decided: “If you have a contract with Larose, keep it, we’ll do something else”. That’s how the story ended. It was ignorance, a lack of maturity,” he said, with a note of regret in his voice, believing things could have been done differently.

Since this painful episode, Dieudonné Larose has been traveling alone. Between touring and unique appearances at various social events everywhere, particularly in Canada, the United States and the West Indies, he’s not complaining. His schedule is full. As he says, he has no luck with this system. “Jaz avèk politik se de kote ki gen lanmo. Depi ou anvi mouri se nan bagay sa yo pou ou rantre. Nan djaz, always gen youn ki pa renmen lòt, youn ki bezwen dominates sou lòt, menm jan ak politics. Se kote sa a yo ki pa òganize, ki pa gen tèt ansanm, ki vin pa on modèl pou sosyete an,” he says, visibly disappointed. For the time being, the singer and composer promises a new album “Revolution Mentale” soon. Hearing him already finish naming the various titles, we have a feeling it’s all just a matter of time.

A responsible singer

Although the artist’s repertoire focuses on personal stories, Dieudonné Larose’s voice has sustained many causes and social demands, be they national or universal. The fate of the braceros in the Dominican Republic, slavery, the world war. “I am a responsible singer. Not obliged, but responsible. An artist must speak with an open mind about the problems of his country and the people who live there,” confides this messenger, who says he now has a clear conscience and believes he has spread enough messages to awaken our consciences.

From time to time during this interview, he approaches Haitian authorities and politicians who are content to line their pockets rather than solve the real social problems that are undermining society. He insists on the need to really monitor talent to better channel young people. As a palliative in juvenile delinquency. Even if he is worried about the current situation in the country, he does not regret leaving Haiti. “I don’t regret leaving. On the mountain tankou m, jan Ayiti ye la a, se nan gang pou ou viv ladan l, m tap al oblije al nan gang petèt, pase si talan pa ka sèvi we fò w viv, fò w fonksyone… Tout peyi ki pa kreye anplwa , ki pa ankadre moun, se anachi la ap fini pa ye”, he is alarmed.

A womanizer?

26 children with 12 mothers, that’s the size of the Larose family. But it’s the opposite, which would have been surprising given that making music and making love are high on his list of favorite things to do. “If I had taken it seriously, I could have had a thousand children,” he says half seriously, half amused. In reality, he loves children and women, and the latter willingly give him back to him. “I am a beloved man. It’s not a question of money, of course I’m loved. Sure, we can reject certain relationships, but dèfwa lè w refize, yo pral ba ww non pote wi, fò w fè atansyon,” ironically this 77-year-old man who neither smokes nor drinks but takes care of himself. and on life.

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