BEL: A New Ladies’ Movement in Haitian Music
BEL, a musical band project made up of female musicians, promises to breathe new soul into the life of Haitian music. The group is led by Chyna Blak and Mickael Music, and Melanie Jean-Charles, but the ladies promises guest appearances by other female artists, so there will be constant exits and entrances.
BEL, whose acronym is a salute to the Kreyol word meaning “beautiful”, was not named as such, by coincidence. It is the intention of the group’s members to show the beauty of Haitian women inside and out.
If their initial single entitled “Haitian Boy” is a sampler of what the group’s eventual album will consist of, then the rest of the songs will be funky and tight with a feminine sensibility. And then there are their unique visual style, with the girls not outfitted in like-styled get-ups, but with each displaying their individuality through dress. China Blak lends a toughness combined with strength. Mickael brings an R&B vibe, while Melanie Jean-Charles’ style is undeniably jazzy. The BEL movement is highly anticipated and oh, so welcomed. The olive branches are already laid out for the group’s triumphant entrance. Here are Chyna Blak and Mickael music gave Kreyolicious.com the goods on the group.
Tell us about yourselves. MICKAEL MUSIC: I’m a lover of all good things; I’m connected to my roots and culture. I stand by the truth and live a simple life full of laughter. Business wises I like to create from my thoughts. I’m a thinker and I like to push for change. I was born with the love of music; I came here to be a part of the magic of music. Music can, will and has changed the world. I’m blessed to be a part of it. CHINA BLAK: I’m a singer writer producer and actress I wear many hats literally when I can switch them I do accordingly.
What were your impressions when you first met the other ladies? CHINA BLAK: I first met Mickael on set through a manager of mine and we clicked instantly due to our musical background and culture. Melanie, I met through Mickael; she seemed nice and we all connected from the same source. MICHAEL: Any time I meet Haitians, I feel right at home. That can be good or bad. [Laughter]
Did any of you study music formally? MICKAEL MUSIC: I have studied music. CHINA BLAK: I studied trumpet piano and audio technology. What are your objectives as a member of Bel? MICKAEL MUSIC: My objective are shining light on our culture in a positive way, good music, sisterhood, support my team and rebels with a cause. Team Haiti sisters. CHINA BLAK: To make a statement in the music industry for women of color. Now, prior to being part of Bel, each of you had a musical career of your own. How will you make those endeavors work with those of the group? MICKAEL MUSIC: All that we do will help our solo projects and the group project. Its all music and entertainment so it’s all one. CHINA BLAK: I will gel as much as possible to make Bel a success through joining forces with the other members and sharing some of my knowledge and creativity to bring together a new sound to the Caribbean market.
From The Supremes, Martha and the Vendellas and to En Vogue to Timbiriche—throughout music history—it seems that to most observers that women’s musical groups are bound to come apart sooner or later. There’s the ego trap, usually, and jealousy and envy. How have you prepared to bullhorn difficulties or problems that might come along the way? CHINA BLAK: Being a bigger person and moving past things quickly and focusing on the mission! MICKAEL MUSIC: The things you mentioned are not just in “women’s” groups it happens in all groups, they just give the females a harder time because of it. But BEL is a female crew movement, meaning you will see a lot of different females rocking the mic with us. When you are confident you can stand next to anyone and see their light so those things will never be any issue for me personally. The Most High has blessed us all with something unique. The sad thing is it’s sometimes not in the group the issues are; it’s the outside world that creates them. Like, “Girl you don’t need them blah blah.”
Which artists are you most influenced by in terms of style? And of course vocal ability and performance. CHINA BLAK: Well, I grew up listening to live music due to my parents love for Haitian bands and Roberta flack and Michael Jackson, Tina Turner then I grew up to have a choice like bust rhymes Patra Shabba Ranks, Missy and etc. MICKAEL MUSIC: It’s always difficult as an artist to compare and that question is always asked. I can just tell you the artist. I like and hope you get my vibe. I like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Nate king Cole, Tracy Chapman, Buju Banton, Nas, Steve Wonder, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Emeline Michel, Beyoncé, Wanito and Tina Tuner.
What’s the one Haitian song that you remember from your days as a kid that you still find memorable? MICKAEL MUSIC: “Bibi-di Bom Bom” by T-vice; all of System Band and Tabou Combo. CHINA BLAK: The Zin period and Sweet Mickey! “Chocolat”.
How important do you ladies think image is to your art? MICKAEL MUSIC: Image is art, its all one now a days they see you before they hear you…so it’s all one thought. You can have great music but if people don’t “like” your “look” they won’t support it. So you’re “look “and music must be one to tell the full story. CHINA BLAK: Image is our identity and it expresses the passion we have for life and our art so it means everything! Have your parents objected or done some serious tchwipeying and side-eying—gade sou kote— over this whole music stuff? MICKAEL MUSIC: No, my family has always welcomed living your dreams and being what you came on earth to do. Without their support it would be hard to do music we need all the love we can get. CHINA BLAK: I grew up to support as well as fuss but over all I got nothing but love from my momma she has always been there for me! To push me along.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? MICKAEL MUSIC: No, I’m a peopleist. [Laughter] I try and just stand for what’s right. And I always try and look at things from all sides. CHINA BLAK: Not really a feminist but I stand up for whatever is right for anything!
When was the last time you went to Haiti? MICKAEL MUSIC: I go to Haiti often, last time was late November, early December [of last year]; I [was] there again [in June]. My impression is always the same, a land touched by God, I love the innocence’s of Haiti but I do see the work that needs to be done and I’m trying to do my share.
What should we expect from BEL’s eventual album? CHINA BLAK: Beautiful music . MICKAEL MUSIC: From BEL, you can always expect surprises, we kind of follow our own rules in everything not just the music, even in the reality TV. So we hope to have something for everyone.
Where did the inspiration for “Haitian Boy” come from? MICKAEL MUSIC: We have been asked this question so much, I hope all the answers match [Laughter], but really we wanted to celebrate our culture after the earthquake we all wanted to do something to help. Me just seeing the Men pulling the people from under the houses made me say they/we never celebrate Haitian men. So we made history with this one. We are so happy and proud to be part of the positive change in our “heartland” Haiti! Haiti stands up! Tout bagay BEL nèt!Thank you for taking the time out to interview BEL. CHINA BLAK: It was a group effort!