Long live Queen Emelin
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Dec. 2, 2004
By Jeffrey B. Remz
SOMERVILLE, MASS. - Emelin Michel is billed as the queen of Haitian music.
And after seeing her perform before an enthusiastic crowd mainly comprised of Haitian expatriates, it as quite easy to see why and also why she shouldn't be limited to her homeland.
Michel is a superstar in her native land though she left there about 12 years for Canada and later New York. Michel, who has released eight albums overall, combines a very easy to get into sound. Think tropical mixed with African souk music, and that gives a clear idea of where she is coming from.
The music is almost always lively - at least it was during the two sets of about 2 1/4 hours of a party.
And Michel certainly makes it come alive. She was a very colorful, charismatic central character dressed in a white outfit the first set and an orange and red outfit the second. She talked easily in excellent English although all the songs were sung in Creole.
And for the few who did not understand her songs, Michel often explained the subject matter. Most dealt with Haiti, about staying strong and positive about the homeland.
Michel actually was slated to return to Haiti in October for a concert, but had to cancel due to security and safety concerns. She hopes to go back in January for the show.
Despite the problems there, Michel managed to maintain a strong sense of hope about Haiti and people around the world.
Michel, almost always smiling, also proved to be a dynamite dancer moving easily about the stage, sometimes moving towards another band member or at one point pulling a star male dancer from the floor onto the stage to dance with him, sometimes with sexual overtones.
Not all the credit goes with Michel. She has a great band including Obed Calvaire on drums in only his second show with her. Calvaire, who plays mostly with jazz cats like Eric Reed, kept a steady beat throughout, really helping to propel the music. The same could be said for lead guitarist Macarios Cesair and second guitarist Dominic Canza, who added the African sound to the music.
This was one joyous night with fans proudl8y singing along. Long live Queen Emelin!