Emeline Michel is the reigning Queen of Haitian Song: a captivating performer, versatile vocalist and one of the premier Haitian songwriters of her generation. She has recorded and appeared on concert stages throughout the Caribbean, Europe and North & South America for over 20 years. Singing both in French and Haitian Creole, her nine albums, Douvanjou ka leve (May the Sun Rise), Pa gen manti nan sa (There's No Doubt), Rhum & Flamme (Rum & Flame), Tout Mon Temps (All My Time), The Very Best, Ban'm pase (Let Me Pass), Cordes et Ame (Strings and Soul), Rasin Kreyol (Creole Roots) and Reine de Cour (Queen of Hearts) have catapulted her to international acclaim.
Ms. Michel is beloved by Haitians for combining traditional rhythms with social, political and inspirational content. She is a member of a unique generation of Haitian musicians that emerged in the late 1980’s and also includes guitarist/vocalist Beethova Obas and the bands Boukman Eksperyans and Boukan Guinen. This wave of artists emphasized complex themes, conscious lyrics and a broad palette of musical styles, including the native Haitian compas, twoubadou and rara.
Born in Gonaives, Haiti, her first experience in music was singing gospel music at the local church. After completing her education, Ms. Michel accepted an opportunity to study at the Detroit Jazz Center and returned to Haiti as a professional musician. She soon released her first album Douvanjou ka leve that featured the hit "Plezi Mize" (Pleasure in Misery) written by Beethova Obas.
Subsequent releases "Tankou melodie" (Like a Melody) and "Flanm" (Flame) established her as one of the top artists in Haiti and the French Antilles, and she was soon hailed as the "new goddess of Creole music." Relocating to France, she became a leading musical icon, performing at venues such as the Jazz Festival of Nice and Theatre de la Ville, making numerous appearances on French television and gracing the covers of many music and culture magazines.
From her new base in France, Ms. Michel’s work quickly spread throughout the French‐speaking world, including Belgium, Africa, the French Antilles, French Guiana, Québec, as well as Chile and Japan. The album Tout Mon Temps delivered her international smash hit "A‐K‐I‐K‐O." While set to an infectious dance groove, the song called for Haiti to look past the political turmoil that has long gripped the nation and to return to a time of innocence and joy.
After signing to a Montréal record label, Ms. Michel enjoyed a high profile as one of the leading young female vocalists working in Québec and a regular act for Canadian festivals, radio and television. In 1996 she released the album Ban ‘m Pase, a CD that showcased her developing talents as a mature writer and producer. This huge‐selling and influential release featured the international hits "Ban'm Pase" and "Mwen Bezwen" (I Need You), fully incorporated her jazz/blues/samba influences, and secured her position as one of the leading songwriters in the Haitian Creole language.
After being signed with several record labels in France, Canada and the United States, Ms. Michel formed her own production company (Production Cheval De Feu) in 1999 to gain full control of her career and artistic vision. In 2000 she released Cordes et Ame (Strings and Soul), a song‐cycle centered on the theme of perseverance, featuring the sound of voice and acoustic guitars bathed in the ancient and modern rhythms of Haiti. Cordes et Ame became the fastest selling recording in Haiti and received Haiti's "Musique En Folie" citation for Best Haitian Album and Best Production for the year 2000.
In 2004 Ms. Michel returned with Rasin Kreyol (Creole Roots) a powerful, mature album and tribute to Haitian traditional music. Ablaze with incandescent rhythms, with poignant, soul stirring lyrics, the CD spawned major hits such as “Banm La Jwa” (Give Me Joy), “Nasyon Soley” (Sun Nation), “Lom Kampe” (When I Will Stand Up) and “Beni Yo” (Bless Them), which became an inspirational anthem to the Haitian nation during the violent political struggles in the middle of the decade.
This album opened multiple doors on the international scene, and Ms. Michel had the opportunity to showcase her talents and the music of Haiti on National Public Radio, CBC Radio, Canadian television and top venues and festivals such as Reggae on the River, Mountain Stage, the Getty Center, Stern Grove, Montréal Jazz Festival, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and a three‐day series at Carnegie Hall.
Jon Pareles, principal popular music critic for The New York Times, in reviewing a Joe’s Pub performance, described her as “the dancing ambassador with a voice serene and warm like a breeze”. The Times also printed a major artistic profile of Ms. Michel on November 19, 2004 entitled “A Diplomat of Music, Longing for Her Homeland.”
La Presse de Montréal, the leading newspaper in Québec, described the music on Rasin Kreyol as “concentrated with sun, tears, sand and mud on the musical genres of Kompa, Rara and sacred and profound rhythms…these ‘ kreyol roots’ [Rasyn Creoles] find again a way to nourish themselves from the deserted soil of the magic land [Haiti]”; the paper cited Rasin Kreyol as the Best World Music Album of 2004.
In 2006, Ms. Michel was chosen from among the multitude of talented New York‐based performers to deliver the headline performance for the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative, a conclave of over 2000 world dignitaries, thinkers, presidents and world leaders brought together by former President Bill Clinton.
In December 2007 Ms. Michel was invited as the guest of honor at Music en Folie, an annual national music fair in Port‐au‐Prince, Haiti. The occasion was a pre‐release of her 2008 CD (and 9th album), Reine de Coeur, a jewel of 14 songs.
Rustic and rhythmic, profound and personal, Reine de Coeur was conceptualized and written between Africa and Haiti, and recorded in Haiti, New York, Montreal and Burkina Faso (French West Africa) with a team of 35 musicians; it was Ms. Michel’s third consecutive turn in the producer’s chair in addition to her roles as vocalist and songwriter. Haiti’s leading daily paper Le Nouvelliste observed, “Emeline [with Reine de Coeur] is selling like hot cakes…Just as every citizen has a national identity card, every Haitian should have one Emeline CD at their home.”
Reine de Coeur has been universally acclaimed and once again the “Horse of Fire” (Emeline Michel’s production company Production Cheval de Feu) has left its mark with rich and beautiful album that sets a new standard for Haitian music.