In Haitian Kreyòl the word lakou carries multiple meanings: the backyard, a gathering place and “home” — which in Haiti is filled with ancestral spirits. This multigenerational collective, formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, blends socially conscious lyrics, voodoo incantations, rare carnival music and hearty call-and-response vocal harmonies to create galloping, exultant dance grooves.
Performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was an eye-opening pilgrimage to a city that reminded them so much of home that they hatched the concept for the collaborative gumbo album HaitiaNola (Haiti & NOLA & Hispaniola). Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne let the band use their private recording studio. The legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band added a timeless touch; master pianist Jon Cleary tickled New Orleans-style riffs over the band’s Haitian vodou prayers; Lost Bayou Ramblers added heavy Cajun grit; Haitian-American singer songwriter Leyla McCalla brought spine-tingling cello playing; guitar maestro Raja Kassis (Antibalas) sprinkled his six-string magic and The Soul Rebels brass band blew the roof off. Iconic artists Cyril Neville, Trombone Shorty and Anders Osborne and others jumped in for a unique, culture-melding, sweaty celebration that connects the gritty energy, unmistakable mysticism and carefree Mardi Gras incantation of laissez les bon temps roulez.