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World Music Percussion Ensemble Adding Haitian Note to Winter Concert

The members of Lakou Mizik, the Haitian music collective that performs with Dartmouth’s World Music Percussion Ensemble tomorrow night, have achieved seemingly opposite musical goals by producing danceable music in the compas tradition of Haiti and the Caribbean region while also singing about the political strife of the island nation.

Lakou Mizik is a relatively new force in Haitian music, founded last year by Zach Niles, a Woodstock filmmaker, to bring a group of Haitian musicians and the message behind their songs to the world stage, both through films and touring. For several of the artists, this is their first time traveling outside Haiti.

“Some of the music they will perform is not necessarily a protest music, per se, but it is a form of music that expresses their wanting to change the country politically,” said Hafiz Shabazz, the director of the seven-member World Music Percussion Ensemble.

The compas style of music that Lakou Mizik will perform tomorrow night “is sort of a contemporary, traditional form of popular music that is played in Haiti and played by primarily the Haitians themselves,” Shabazz said. In their Hopkins Center engagement with the World Music Percussion Ensemble, Lakou Mizik will put their own spin on the songs of the late Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley, including classics like I Shot the Sheriff and Stir It Up.

The World Music Percussion Ensemble’s winter concert usually focuses on the music of Jamaica and Cuba, as well as the Christian season of Lent that traditionally Catholic countries in the Caribbean and South America observe before the arrival of spring. That will be the case at this year’s concert, Shabazz said, and the presence of Lakou Mizik will also shine a light on the musical traditions that are unique to Haiti.

“We are celebrating rebirth and the coming of spring, of course,” Shabazz said. “It’s going to be a fun time, a happy time, a time for people to actually come out and dance a bit.”

The World Percussion Music Ensemble performs with members of Lakou Mizik at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Spaulding Auditorium ($16). To learn more about Lakou Mizik and see videos of the group’s performances, visit www.lakoumizik.com.