“Bayo” is what Haitian born artist Michael Brun’s new music is all about. In Haitian Creole, the term is associated with generosity and a responsibility the country’s contemporary musicians have to give back and represent their culture on a global level.
With his latest music video drop last Friday of the same title as his musical concept, that’s exactly what the 25-year-old rising star is on his way to do. He’s switching gears from his EDM background and is focusing on tracks he has a greater personal connection to. Through his music, he hopes to combat all the consistent negative misrepresentation of his native country and it’s safe to say, Brun is off to an impressive start.
From the colorful dancing to the infectious melodies influenced by Haiti’s traditional Rara music, you’ll instantly be hooked on the video’s visuals and unique sound. Brun also collaborated with Haitian pop star J. Perry along with the king of Haitian hip-hop Baky, and rapper Strong G who came through with strong verses in Haitian Creole.
It’s his specialty to bring all kinds of people together, which made him the perfect first non-jazz performer to close out this year’s 12th annual Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, also known as PAPJAZZ. Right before his set last month, we chatted with Brun about the inspiration that resulted in his one-of-a-kind sound and what we can expect from him next.
Isis Briones: How does it feel to be back in Haiti performing at PAPJAZZ?
IB: Of course, this is where it all started, right? What led you to take inspiration from your background?
MB: “I’ve been working for about a year and a half, almost two years on my new album. It’s an all-encompassing project that shows music and visuals that come from the same place. It’s Haitian music as a base, but it’s in combination with electronic music, pop, and more — all of that with a Michael Brun twist.”
IB: Can you elaborate on what Haitian influences will be incorporated in your upcoming tracks?
MB: “I would say a lot of the sounds that I’m working with now were things that I grew up hearing. Some of that was Rara music, which is parade type tunes based on drums, horns, and a lot of people with high energy. That was a big part of my life as a kid every Sunday and it was awesome. My dad had a band, too, and my mom played the piano. It was a natural progression of everything I was hearing internationally and the local classics I was around, all I ever wanted to do was mix the two together.”
IB: Got it, so you always wanted to be a musician?
MB: “Kind of. I always really liked it. First, I was a fan and as a producer, it was a hobby. I never really approached music as a job because I wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid. I hoped to be a pediatrician. Music was something I enjoyed a lot, but I didn’t start making it until I was around 14 or 15.
Then I went to college and had a few songs that started picking up online, which set off this whole Pandora’s box of really amazing things that came up. As I was working with more music, I was reaching the same people I wanted to reach through medicine on a larger scale. I felt the core thing about being a doctor that I always gravitated towards was to help people and give back what I received in my life. Music let me do that. I could see all these different opportunities come up where I could use things what I learned from my family and growing up here.”
IB: Who would you say have been your biggest musical influences?
MB: I would say, people that influenced this upcoming album is a combination of classic 70’s and 80’s Haitian artists. What I did was use a bit of what they had in mind of taking local sounds and merging them with influential international genres of their time like rock. For me, electronic and hip-hop are big right now. On one end, it’s learning from great artists in the past along with modern stars who are transforming the industry.
I’m also a fan of the development of Latin music. To hear a Spanish song on the radio in the U.S. that’s kept as is, I think that’s a testament of how the world has evolved. I’ve been working with Maxwell, so that’s a cool collaboration because we’ve known each other for a while and we’ve worked on a few projects together before. There’s more, too, because I’m in the process of finishing some things up. I can say that I’m teaming up with some Latin and Afrobeat artists, too. The sound is really exciting for me, some of these musicians are are accomplished in their own right, so I think it’s interesting for them to come into this new world of Haitian music. It seems like it’s kind of getting them out of their comfort zones as well, but in a really good way.”
IB: Since you’re so comfortable experimenting with different genres, were you intimated at all being a non-jazz musician performing at a jazz festival?
MB: “I’ve always loved jazz. Those are the chords and progressions that make you aware of music. There are so many different forms and ways to express it though and that’s the point of view I’m taking with my set. I believe the music I’m working on is truly a combination of many different genres and that’s what I want to do with all my performances.”
IB: What’s one message you hope people will take away from your work?
MB: “My music is about working hard and putting the best possible sounds out. That’s something I heard my whole life from my family. They’ve been a huge support system for me. Even if I failed, my parents taught me everything happens for a reason and what matters is what I learn from it. You learn from experience and if you do your best, you won’t live with regret.
There’s so much beauty and potential in Haiti that has been around since the foundation of the country, but it’s really coming back in the youth today. I see so many artists and business owners thinking outside of the box to tackle problems that have been present for many years along with making the country a better place. You only get to that by giving it your all.”
IB: Now that you found your inspiration, released your newfound sound, what’s next?
MB: “I’m planning a U.S. tour that we’re going to be doing in the next few months. It’s going to be in a few cities I’m excited to go back to. We just did this New York show in the Music Hall of Williamsburg that sold out. The album is going to be called Bayo and all of the tracks are going to be coming out as singles, but they’re interconnected, so the shows as well is going to be the same concept.
These shows are going to be exciting because it’s going to be a block party feel. I guess a big part of it is the Haitian street sound mixed with something that you would find at something like Diplo’s Mad Decent show. It’s going to have a unique flavor and I can’t wait for people to experience it.”