FEATURE INTERVIEW: Michael Brun and the Electronic Music Scene of Haiti
by Winston "Stone" Ford
Picture this scene. Thousands of fans jamming out to a pair of Electronic music DJs in a tropical setting. It’s 7:15 in the morning and these sweaty, sun-drenched fans have been dancing for 7 hours straight with no letting up. The DJs, booked only to play 2 hours, extend their set because of the love they are feeling from the crowd.
Where do you think this is taking place? Ibiza? Miami? The Copacabana in Brazil? Australia’s Gold Coast?
What if I told you that this happened in Haiti?
Yes, Haiti, the island nation that we all associate with boat people, earthquakes and poverty is slowly getting known for something else…their electronic dance music scene. EDM has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning parties from Kansas City to Kuwait, but it’s this Caribbean nation that is set to make it’s mark on the genre.
Emerging from Haiti is an unlikely hero–Michael Brun. The 19 year old DJ is making a mark for not only himself but his country, showing listeners shattering misconceptions about music in his country. The producer has already had a top 3 release on Beatport with his release of “Dawn” on Revealed Recordings. He’s also remixed the likes of Neon Trees, Agnes and Julia and Childish Gambino to much acclaim.
“Haiti is so a part of me,” Brun says in his interview, and he continues to change perceptions of the dance scene in Haiti and opening the door for other producers to walk through. “It’s not just me,” he says.
When I put it out on Twitter that I was interviewing a Haitian EDM producer, people quickly responded with questions and inquiries. Let’s face it, we’re fed so much negative news about your country that our perception is very skewed. Haiti and EDM almost seems like a contradiction. So can you paint a picture of the scene in Haiti?
Electronic Dance Music was a pretty small sector of the Haitian community. It’s only really now growing and in the past 4 or 5 years it’s gotten pretty big. We went from two years ago having our first main EDM act, Steve Angelo, and that was a big step forward for people to get a taste of it and we have grown ever since.
We still listen to konpa, the traditional music of Haiti, and of course a lot of American and French music. However, EDM is being played on the radio, and people are listening to it on all social levels. The turnout for these events keeps getting bigger and bigger. People are learning about the artists, and learning what DJs do. Before, the public didn’t know really what the music was, and now it’s becoming a part of Haitian culture in general.
Adding from his manager Gilles: We still have a long way to go. The average monthly income in Haiti is $200, while a ticket to one of these events is $50.
Video of Swedish DJ Avicii in Haiti
Do you think your background as a Haitian in the EDM scene will make you stand out in the crowd? Is that even something that you think about consciously?
Haiti is so a part of me, and one of my goals as an artist is to show people around the world that have that negative view of Haiti that there are artists from Haiti that are doing good work. It’s not all what you see in the news. Down the line I want to be able to support other Haitian artists as well because it’s not just me, there are a lot more. I’ve been pretty blessed to reach a pretty wide audience.
Has the 2010 Earthquake that devastated the country tempered the creative output of the musicians and creatives there?
The Earthquake was a terrible point in Haiti. It was one of those situations where you just didn’t know what was going on. It was a tough time.
But the quake was a double edged sword. It really united the Haitian people into a single event that we could all relate to and be able to move on and forward from. It really pushed artists forward in terms of creativity. A lot of artists are using that to write music that is positive for Haiti and uniting the people.
My cousin is Haitin pop producer J Perry and one of his songs is called “Dekole.” It was super popular during carnival in Haiti. “Dekole” means “to take off.” You can’t stop Haiti. We’re always going to be moving forward and making progress.
What about you? How did you get started as a DJ and producer?
I think the first track I heard was Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction.” There is no clubbing age in Haiti so people would go out at the age of 15 or 16. I would go out and I would see Gilles and DJs playing it and I was instantly into it. Gilles helped me out, taught me the basics about [DJing and Producing]. I started out with Fruity Loops but moved on to CDJs and Ableton.
There is a lot of contention among producers with the Fruity Loops program, how do you feel about that?
All DAW (Digital Audio Workstations) products have the same function. You can produce music quickly if you know what you’re doing. And Fruity Loops was a very easy way for me to get into it. My first few productions were pretty terrible, and it took a while for me to realize that I have to work at this for a long time so I could understand what I am doing. After a few months of Fruity Loops I moved on to Ableton, and using that program I was able to get my ideas down.
Now I think it’s such a digital age, you can be a solid producer using only your laptop.
But how do you feel about that? There seems to be this explosion of Digital DJs and Producers and a lot of them aren’t that good? Do you feel like there is oversaturation in the industry?
Yes, I do think it’s oversaturated. There is this documentary called Press Pause Play which talks a lot about this digital age and this notion that everyone thinks they can make music. It makes it tough for people to stand out because everyone is a “DJ” now.
But at the same time, it’s given people who actually have talent the ability to reach a wide audience. The people who are good at it will find their fans and the people who are not will have their fun.
In The States, EDM has really blown up lately, although I’ve heard differing opinions about it
I think that EDM hitting the mainstream is not a bad thing. There is a larger crowd that we can market our music to a greater amount of people. I think there is a certain element [in the community] that thinks that it will dilute the experience in order to gain greater acceptance [from the mainstream]. Yes, I think that will happen to a certain extent, but I think that’s the evolution of music. It’s going to happen and people should be happy about it.