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Cuba Haiti: Musical Dialogues (II). Martha Jean-Claude

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cuba Haiti, Cultural production, music Add comments

Martha Jean-Claude was a Haitian singer who moved to Cuba in 1952, fleeing persecution from the Magloire government. She married a Cuban, journalist Victor Mirabal, had four children with him, and developed a career in the Havana of the 1950s, appearing in radio, television and nightclubs. She joined the Revolution and continued to perform her brand of political song. She often toured internationally, including to war-torn Angola, on behalf of the Revolution and along with other Cuban musicians, always speaking up against the Duvalier regime.  She finally returned to Haiti in 1986, after the fall of Duvalier, and died in 2001 at the age of 83.

While in Cuba, she starred in Humberto Solás’ 1974 film Simparele, a 30 minute documentary re-enactment of Haitian history- which  Solás described in an interview with Julienne Burton (currently at UC-Santa Cruz), as an experimental and “interpretive documentary about the history of the people’s struggle in Haiti.” A good review of the film was published in Jump Cut in its december 1978 issue.

(If somebody has a copy of it or knows how to get one, please send it my way)

Here is the first minute of the film, which I found on Youtube.

Over the years, she performed with many Cuban musicians, like singer Celia Cruz (before the Revolution) and pianist Guillermo Rubalcava,  and shared the stage with many more, often Nueva Trova musicians like Noel Nicola, Sara Gonzalez and Pedro Luis Ferrer. In Cuba, she recorded several LPs, including:

1956 “Canciones de Haiti” (Songs of Haiti), GEMA. Havana, Cuba.

1969 “Canto Popular de Haiti” (EGREM- re-released in Mexico under license by Discos Pentagrama).  *[click here to download it].

1971 “Yo soy la cancion de Haiti” (I am Haiti’s song)

1972 “Martha canta a los niños” (Martha sings to the children). EGREM.

1975 “Agoe”, EGREM/Areito. Havana, Cuba

1993 “Mujer de dos islas” (Woman of two islands). SIBONEY, SANTIAGO.

But Martha Jean-Claude was not only a singer, but an accomplished composer. One of her most important compositions was in the repertoire of the Orquesta Aragon: C’est la vie mon cher (click on the title to hear part of it).

Here she is in 1952 in a duette with Celia Cruz (audio only): “Choucoune” (Haitian merengue)

(Thanks to Radio Cuba Canta for this link)

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