Vox Sambou is the real deal: A sharp-witted lyricist and classy showman who is charismatic, unflinching, passionate and compassionate. The Montreal-based MC has been called “the eternal voice of Haiti,” a “Haitian hip hop ambassador” and a “key figure on the progressive front of the Rap Kreyòl movement” whose “boundless energy” on stage with his six-piece band can easily win over the crowd.
Vox and his projects represent many of this writer’s favourite qualities of Montreal’s music scene: Diverse, collaborative and especially multi-lingual. A founding member of the city’s revered Nomadic Massive collective, Vox has already released two solo albums — solo debut Lakay and 2013’s Dyasporafriken — and is poised to release his third solo effort The Brazil Session this fall. In fact the disc has had release parties, in Ottawa and more recently in São Paulo, where the album was recorded. Longtime Brazilian hip hop collaborators Gaspar from Z’Africa Brasil (video) and MC Rael da Rima, who are on the album, participated in the Sampa show. Soon enough The Brazil Session will also be commercially available, but here’s a taste from the good folks at Afropop. [Blog/matéria em Português aqui.]
No stranger to Brazilian additions to his music, Vox’s sound is a unique hip hop fusion, mixing up the beats with traditional Haitian music, lots of reggae vibes, Afrobeat, various other formes of Latin music, and danceable jazz. Now with The Brazil Session he adds extra swing from three Brazilian musicians — MC Rael, Felippe Pipeta (trumpet) and Cauê Vieira (saxophone, flute) — alongside Gaspar, guest percussionists, and behind it all, Vox’s Canadian band, including Malika Tirolien, who’s performed with Cirque du Soleil and recorded with Snarky Puppy, and David Ryshpan of Montreal’s Trio Bruxo.
A hard-working, prolific artist and old-schooler on the Montreal scene, Vox also plays a key role linking Haitian and Canadian artists. He co-founded the initiave Solid’Ayiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, to help “build long-term solidarity between people in Montreal and Haiti around the pillars of education, self-sufficiency, independence, social justice and peace.” Vox’s lyrics denounce injustice in Haiti and worldwide, and he’s a committed activist, taking on topics like the struggle against AIDS in the song DiscriminaSida (video), released on World AIDS Day 2009.
Or take Blackitude, a tune released in 2012 with a video shot in the Dominican Republic. Vox writes that it was “inspired by Nelson Maca, poet, professor and activist in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. The song’s theme is ‘negritude’ and the larger African diaspora.”
Many of the themes and musical references carry over from his last album, 2013’s Dyasporafriken, on which some of the same collaborators appear. Tribal drums, hip hop beats, Afrobeat licks … name the sounds and Vox will make ’em work together.
Vox is also an incredible live performer. It’s easy to see how much energy, sweat, love and fiery artistry he puts into his shows. On stage, in the studio or on the street, this is one cat you want to keep on your radar.
Vox Sambou performs on October 17th for the Saturday Jamboree at Geary Lane as part of the fifth annual Uma Nota Festival.