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#299: Guy Durosier, a musical giant, is dead at 68. (fwd)
From: jean <email@example.com>
The great Haitian musician Guy Durosier whose mastery of several
instruments and his command of scores of musical genres have earned him
the title "The Ambassador of Haitian Music" died early this morning at
his home in Bothell (near Seattle) in the state of Washington.
He was 68 years old.
After a short hospitalization back in May, he died of complications
arisen from pulmonary cancer.
The composer of the Haitian classic "Ma Brune" began performing
professionally as a sax player in 1947 with "Les Gais Trouvers", a band
led by the late Alphonse Simon. He was about 14 years old. Two years
later, after a short stint with the Nono Lamy band, he joined the
legendary big band of El Maestro Issah El Saeih. There he honed his
craft as a songwriter, singer and arranger. Guy's dexterity on the
saxophone arrested the attention of the incomparable Bud Johnson, one
the arrangers brought in Haiti from the U.S. by El Saieh. Mr. Johnson,
who himself as a sax player used to swing with some of the coolest
American big bands of the era, taught Guy the fundamentals of Jazz.
Illustrative of Mr. Durosier's penchant for the style are songs like
"Gabelus", "Dodo Turgeau" and "Jeanine" -an obscure recording of the
Guignard brothers-. All the while he would visit almost daily the music
Mecca that was Mr. Alexis François Guignard's home located at Rue St.
Honoré, Port au Prince to learn the piano.
When he joined the Orchestra of the Riviera Hotel in 1952 under the
leadership of the famous Haitian arranger Michel Desgrottes he was
already a seasoned arranger and performer. In fact, Mr. Durosier was
simultaneously playing and producing a great number of musical
formations at the time. Orchestras Citadelle and Cabane Choucoune, to
name a few, benefited from his musical acumen.
After a few trips abroad, he left Haiti for good in 1959.
He first went to Paris where he wrote "Courrier d'Haiti". Then he
stopped for a while in London, Brazil, Columbia , Nassau and Canada
where he settled for the next seven years. There, along with a whole
slew of other popular songs, he recorded the hit "Michaëlle". By then
he was a virtuoso of the organ.
In 1967, draped with the Haitian flag, he performed to a near full house
at Carnegie Hall. About this concert, a New York Times' reviewer wrote:
"Durosier has the skill to approach all his material, varied as it is
in style and origin, with assurance. He is at his best in the subtler
things when he combines his vocal finesse and his smooth organ
background most effectively."
Three years later he made the most controversial ans costly career move
of his life.
Toward the end of 1970, he got invited by the infamous Tonton Macoute
chief Roger Lafontant to sing for the dictator François Duvalier. This
concert, held at the National Plalace, was broadcast live through almost
all the radio stations in the capital. ( While in Haiti, he recorded
live at the Cinema Capitol during a sold out concert -like all the
others throughout Port au Prince- his memorable "Si ou al an Ayiti" and
"Nou", a tribute to the late Martin Luther King).
In April 1971, Guy Durosier sang at the dictator's funeral an
adaptation of one of the movements of the ninth symphony of Beethoven.
The lyrics "Comme tu es beau the grand François…" (How beautiful you
are the great François…) still reverberate in the collective memory.
(He recently told a journalist that he was forced to sing that day).
True or not, Mr. Durosier, nevertheless, subsequently became a member
of the inner circle of Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier. He stayed in
Haiti until 1973 when he had a falling out with the young dictator.
His association with the Duvalier regime has dogged him for the rest of
Unlike many other performers who have either performed or associated
themselves with different Haitian governments throughout the years, a
great number of Haitians never forgave Mr. Durosier for being a
personal friend of the young dictator.
While he never regained his popularity of years past, like a good wine,
he got better with age. In one of his last concerts this past November
at the New Jersey Performing Art Center, Guy enthralled the audience
with his reviewed version of "Les Pianos Nostalgiques" (The Nostaligic
Pianos). His latest CD "Reminiscences Haitiennes" is a masterpiece.
Whether on the piano, the flute, the organ or the Saxophone Mr.
Durosier was the quintessential proficient musician. A skillful
arranger, he was able to easily combine the sounds of Duke Ellington and
Cuba's great Peres Prado with one of Haiti's rich melodies and pulsating
rhythms to create a hybrid that enriches our most inner senses.
(A memorial will be held in Bothell August 25, 1999. And honoring the
career of Guy Durosier, on Sunday September 26, at Brooklyn College,
there will be a concert which will bring together Joe Trouillot, Michel
Pressoir, Edner Guignard, Raoul Guillaume, his son Robert, his daughter
Jane Anne -they both also sing- etc…)
Guy Durosier is survived by his wife Mary Anne, his daughter Jane Anne,
his sons Robert and Guy Jr.
Spring Valley, New York
August 18, 1999.