Haitian mizik rasin
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Lakou Mizik is a multigenerational collective of Haitian musicians united in a mission to spread awareness about Haitian traditional culture. In Haitian Kreyol, the word lakou carries multiple meanings. It can mean a backyard or a collective place where people gather to play music and dance. It can also be an extended community, or a connection to one’s ancestors. As a band, Lakou Mizik embodies a little of each meaning—bringing music, community, and spiritual connection to backyards (and festivals) across the globe. 

First called vodou adjae, mizik rasin means “roots music” in Haitian Kreyol. Mizik rasin emerged in the late 1970s and ’80s and fuses the sacred music of the Afro-Haitian religion Vodou with electrified elements of rock and R&B. Lakou Mizik also incorporates elements of rara, a form of Carnival music based in Vodou, in which drummers and horn players lead joyous processions through the streets.

The group formed in Port-au-Prince in 2010 in response to a devastating earthquake, an epidemic, and a political crisis occurring all at once. Guitarist and singer Steeve Valcourt—whose father is one of the country’s iconic musicians—and singer Jonas Attis had begun performing at camps for people displaced by the earthquake in an effort to raise their spirits. There they met American filmmaker and producer Zach Niles who was visiting to help with recovery efforts. The three joined forces, uniting elder legends and rising young talents in this joyous and thoroughly danceable expression of Haitian identity and pride. 

Master drummer and Vodou priest Sanba Zao (Louis Lesly Marcelin) leads Lakou Mizik. A legend of the rasin movement with an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional songs and rhythms, he provides mentorship and cultural grounding to the younger members of the collective. Performing with Sanba Zao, Steeve, and Jonas are singer Nadine Niles, bassist Lamarre Junior, rara musicians Peterson “Ti Piti” Joseph and James Carrier, accordionist Belony Beniste, and drummer Davious Vil.

Valcourt looks forward to sharing the beauty of Haitian culture with audiences in Lowell. “Our traditions are buried under a lot of misinformation,” he says. “We are trying to introduce people back to the culture, back to the essence, back to the backyard.”