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#2509: Haitian band Kwa-ze in West Palm Beach, FL (fwd)
From: Linda Rawls <email@example.com>
DATE: Thursday, February 17, 2000
By Dan Neal
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
REGGAE? NO, KWA-ZE! ARTIGRAS BAND RIFE WITH RIFF
What the hey?
OK, so this band sounds like nothing you've heard before, and they
sing half their songs in a language you won't understand.
Kwa-ze, a 10-piece Haitian band from West Palm Beach, makes wonderful
music, and they're appearing at ArtiGras in Palm Beach Gardens on
Saturday (Feb. 19, 2000). If you've got an open mind - and ears to match
- check them out.
The band's sound, called compa, is a marriage of traditional Latin
rhythms and Haitian folk music. But it's more than that. Wailing sax
improvisations make it part jazz. Three percussionists add a heavy dose
of calypso and reggae. The brass section brings in a salsa flavor, and
they play at least one
tune that might even make you like rap.
It all comes together in bright, beautiful melodies sung over smooth
island grooves and punctuated by spicy riffs from sax and trumpet.
The brains of the outfit is Fritz Bonostro, 32, who composes and
arranges most of the tunes, plays keyboard and sings. The West Palm
Beach floral designer started the band in the mid-90s in New York, where
he immigrated from Haiti with his parents in 1980.
Bonostro writes in Haitian Creole and in English, and his songs talk
mostly of love lost and found, social injustice and partying on the
beach. But one has special meaning for him, and it may be the key to the
In 1997, just as Kwa-ze was beginning to taste some success in New
York nightclubs and recording songs for a debut CD, Bonostro's wife of
eight years left him. She returned to Haiti, taking their two children,
Fritz Jr., now 9, and Aline, 7, with her.
Bonostro hired an army of lawyers, but after he sank his savings into
the effort, a judge told him there was no hope of getting his kids back.
Defeated, he walked home from the courthouse in the rain.
"I was so close to my kids, man," Bonostro says. "I was going through
In his apartment that night, he hit bottom - then rebounded. "I had
given up hope of ever seeing them again," Bonostro says. "So I thought,
'I'm going to show my kids that I did my best. I'm going to write a song
to show them that I love them.' "
He sat at his keyboard and composed A Mas Enfantes (To My Children),
a heart-wrenching ballad that begins, "Not a day goes by that I don't
think about you." Later, he recorded a New York-Haiti phone conversation
with Fritz Jr. and Aline, interspersing their voices - "Hi, Daddy. How
are you? I can't
wait to see you" - throughout the song.
Bonostro took the song, along with the others recorded by the New
York band, and moved to West Palm Beach. With lead female vocalist
Carline Auguste, he reformed the group using local musicians - all
members live in West Palm
Beach - and began establishing a reputation playing clubs on Clematis
and the Latin Q Club off Forest Hill Boulevard.
Last year, the band's first CD - Kwa-ze: Vol. 1 - was released and
sold 3,000 copies in West Indian music stores. A Mas Enfants became a
hit on Haitian radio stations in South Florida, and Bonostro is now
working to translate the song into English so he can "turn compa over to
His big break may prove a bust, but Bonostro's not worried - the song
has already won over the market that matters most: When he sent the CD
to his ex-wife in Haiti, she cried, relented and agreed to let him take
the kids back to the U.S. every summer.
"It's kwa-ze," Bonostro says. "Fate. Destiny. Whatever you call it in
English when you meet again because it's meant to be."