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Grand Hotel Oloffson
Welcome to Haiti,
Land of Magic...a banquet for all the senses! A Haitian vacation is a
total experience, an adventure in a friendly country where hospitality
is a national tradition. The Hotel Oloffson and its crew wish "bienvenue"
to its visitors.
In 1993, a very popular Haitian band, RAM, led by Richard Morse, a
Haitian-American, put out a song called “Fey.” It became an anthem
for supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, president-in-exile, and his
Lavalas party, the hope of Haitian democracy. Despite threats to his own
life and that of his family, Morse continued to lead RAM in performing
immortalized in Greene novel
The latest in the Oloffson’s long line of operators is Richard Morse,
the son of an American scholar and a Haitian dancer who grew up in
Group, Ram, To Perform Here
The group Ram based in Haiti is led
by Richard Morse whose challenge lies in blending popular music with
voodoo rhythms. The group shot to prominence when their song “Ibo lele”
“Dreams come true” was included on the soundtrack for the
critically acclaimed 1993 movie “Philadelphia” starring Denzel
And so the generals decided they had to get a racine band out on
the Champs du Mars, the quicker the better. One Friday afternoon before
Lent began, they summoned Richard Morse, a young Haitian-American
musician who ran the Hotel Oloffson
Greene Would Still Adore This Hotel
Morse, a Princeton University graduate, came to study the music of vodou,
Haiti's polytheistic religion, but he "needed a day job."
Haiti is RAM's `rasin'
The ancient drum rhythms of African slaves and the beat of modern
American pop, infused with the experience of repression and revolution,
bubble in the irresistible music of Haitian band RAM.
L to R: McEddy Masson (NCHR Consultant), Merrie Archer (NCHR Assoc.
Director) , Richard Morse (RAM Leader), Michèle Montas, and Lunise
Ram is led by Richard Morse, who was raised in America of American and
Haitian parentage. A few years ago he returned to Haiti and along with
running the Hotel Oloffson (the favorite haunt of foreign journalists)
he formed Ram.
"I took over the hotel in 1987, formed a band in 1990 and stopped
counting governments in 1996." He remembers a time in the early
1990s when coups and counter-coups gave the country three governments in
12 hours. Morse is a Haitian-American educated at Princeton.
Ear - Port-au-Prince
RAM is lead by the amiable Richard Morse, who runs the legendary Hotel
Oloffson in a laid-back style. Its long bar, overhead fans, and cool
verandah inspired the author, Graham Greene, who used the Oloffson as
the setting for much of his 1960s novel, The Comedians
you ever been Eksperyansed?
RAM is the rasin band formed by Richard Morse, the owner of
Port-au-Prince's Oloffson Hotel, immortalised in Graham Greene's book, The
Comedians. Richard hosted gigs by different rasin bands in
the early days of the development of the sound, when the Oloffson was
one of the few places that could be relied on as a venue.
is an old "gingerbread mansion" house set in a
lush garden. it was the inspiration for "hotel trianon", the
scene of graham greene's novel "The comedians". it is
currently run by richard morse, a u.s.-born rock musician who came to
haiti 15 years ago to study voodoo
drum rhythms, married a local singer, and now has his own music
group called "ram" that plays at the hotel every thurday
I first heard
RAM play in 1991 while visiting the Hotel
Oloffson, where artists such as David Byrne and Mick Jagger have
been known to jam at the lounge.
FIFTH AMENDMENT Presents
RAM seduces its audiences with a heady electic mix of vodou
rhythms,Western electric sound and sinuous traditional dancing,
embodying the musical and political heart and spirit of Haiti - a
country of paradoxes....of mystical vodou and political coups, Carribean
beaches and institutionalised terror, Papa Doc and Baron Samedi.
@ ArtMedia Haiti
Metisse @ArtMedia Haiti
Richard Morse is the perfect mix of cultures to
be representing "World Beat" music.
He was born in Puerto Rico of a Haitian mother who is a singer, an American father who was a scientist and a writer, and grew up in the United States.
On his Haitian side, he comes from a strong musical background. His grandfather Candio is remembered in
Haiti not only for his talent in writing and composing popular ballads but also for his acute sense of political satire from the end of the 1800’s until mid 1900’s. His mother is the well-known singer Emerante de Pradine, who is the first Haitian woman to sign a record deal, performing traditional voodoo songs, with a major American label. Despite his being aware of his mother’s singing when he was growing up, Morse doesn’t seem to think he has followed in anyone's footsteps.
He started playing music
with a few friends during his college years at Princeton
University. Morse had no musical training but bought himself a bass guitar and tagged along with the others. The talent he brought to the group was his writing, which he’s been developing since his father gave him a typewriter when he was 7years old. After graduating and not knowing what life had in store for them, the group decided to remain together as a punk rock band. That lasted 5 years until a French producer heard them and was very interested in the punk rock sounds with a tropical twist. When he found out about Morse’s Haitian heritage, the producer strongly suggested he should go to Haiti and explore Voodoo rhythms. That was in 1985, just one year before the end of the
Duvalier regime. Neither Haiti nor Morse has been the same since. Haitian music also went another direction, musicians were not afraid to explore their roots and use voodoo rhythms openly. Richard Morse was in the right place at the right time. Looking for a job he ended up being the manager of the landmark
Hotel Oloffson that was falling in ruins and made famous by Graham Green as the focal point of his novel "The Comedians".
He gave it life and made it work again. Searching for entertainment for the hotel, he hired a folkloric dance troupe and slowly converted that troupe into a Band. Ram was created in 1990 and has never stopped making waves in and outside Haiti since. Nevertheless, with all
the political turmoil the country has gone through,
Morse has managed to keep the hotel, the band and a family life going. He has been married for twelve years to the other prominent member of Ram, the dancer and lead singer Lunise, who originally was part of the folkloric dance troupe. Her natural gift for singing convinced Morse to gear a lot of the music towards her. He was right because she has won the
heart of the Haitian people and is one of the top female artists in Haiti.
When Richard Morse arrived in Haiti
it was with the firm intention to return to the states with the sounds he came to get but he was not expecting to meet with
everything Haiti had to offer
culturally. He was not only taken by the music, but also with all the Haitian art
scene. He took advantage of the space available at the Hotel to help a few local artists. Among them was the late Antoine Oleyant who was one of the best sequin artists Haiti had to offer. Morse gave him a space to work and show his art. He did the same for Stivenson Magloire, a painter who marked his time but unfortunately was stoned to death during a time of political confusion. Many other artists like Angelen Phillips, Gerard, Lafortune Felix, to name a few, were and are still welcome at the Hotel. Today the Hotel Oloffson is, without a doubt, a meeting point for artists in general, whether they are painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, filmmakers, writers, etc. Every Thursday night, when not touring outside or inside Haiti, Richard Morse and his Group Ram Perform at the Hotel. It is one "Rendez-Vous" foreigners don’t like to miss and Haitians are always on time for.
In order to understand
the lyrics of a Creole song, one has to pay close attention even if you speak the language, because there are a lot of ways to interpret the words. In Haiti, due to political or social changes, what means something one day can mean another the next. In the case of Ram, Morse mixes traditional voodoo songs with his own lyrics, in English, French and Creole. In
Jonathan Demme paid close attention to one of Ram’s Hits: " Ibo Lele " and chose it to be part of the soundtrack of his acclaimed movie
Philadelphia. By doing so, Demme has contributed invaluably to putying Ram on the map by including them alongside artists like Maria Callas, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.
Today, Ram is
currently touring in Europe,
and will soon release 2 new CDs. One (their 3rd album) called: "Madigra" is a compilation record of their greatest hits and some carnival songs that have never been on an album. The other will only feature new songs, it is called "Kite Yo Pale." (Let Them Talk) On this album, with the help of a friend from Morse’s Punk Rock days, the voodoo drums were recorded like never before. Their challenge was to capture the essence of the drum, made to be heard only in live ceremonies and blend it with today’s technology. To illustrate that
forth album, Richard Morse has ask David Belle, a young American film maker, who lives mostly in Haiti since 1993, to direct Ram latest video. It features the song "Ezili o" which is sang a cappella. When the two men met to discuss the project, they realized how much they were on the same wavelength. They chose to go as high as they could in the mountains to film the video. They ended up in the mountain village of Seguin. The setting is magical and is a perfect choice for the song. David Belle has beautifully captured the spirit of the song with his images and has given the viewer a sense of time traveling.
Morse truly enjoys making his Haitian public happy
and loves making music that his fans will be singing and dancing to.
Ram Concert Dates in The United Kingdom
The Gantry, Southhampton
De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea
Arts Link, Camberley
de Montfort Hall, Leicester
Part of Festival
St Donat's Arts Centre, South Glamorgan
Maddermarket Theatre, Tewkesbury
The Buttermarket, Shrewsbury
The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury
Rhythm Sticks, South Bank, London
Zodiac Club, Oxford
Lincoln International Dance & Music Festival
4PM & 7PM
The Hotel Oloffson
P.O. Box 260
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, W.I.
Telephone: (011-509) 223-4000, 223-4101, 223-4102
Fax: (011-509) 223-0919
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@ ArtMedia Haiti
Metisse @ArtMedia Haiti