The Haitian theme continued into the evening with a double-bill featuring McCalla and her trio joined by fellow ex-Carolina Chocolate Drop-mate Dom Flemons followed by the American debut of Chouk Bwa Libète. Covering territory previously explored by groups such as Boukman Eksperyans and Rasin Mapou de Azor, Chouk Bwa Libète specialize in conveying the mystical power of Vodou (voodoo) through music unencumbered by Westernized accoutrements. Eschewing melodic instruments, the band consists of four drummers, two female singer-dancers and lead singer (and bandleader) Sambaton Dorvil who also wields the fer, a metal bar that “calls” the rhythms.
If nothing else, Chouk Bwa Libète proved to be the uncontested leader in the running for the annual SMF “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t” award. The potential for a crushing onslaught of percussion was tempered by the magnificent interplay of rhythms and the hypnotically soothing call-and-response vocalizing between Dorvil and the band. The melding of cultures in early American history, which McCalla eloquently addressed during her set, was immediately evident to anyone who has seen a performance by the McIntosh County Shouters in the shimmy shaking dance moves by the two women flanking the lead singer in Chouk Bwa Libète. With hair braids flying, the male percussionists pursued a regimen of disciplined fury while switching between drums and imploring the spirits to presumably do the right thing. At intermission, the band members switched from all-white attire, which seemed ceremonial in purpose, to clothing imprinted with iridescently bright floral colors and tropical patterns, which imparted an element of psychedelia to the proceedings.
Read more here.