Sten Källman & Sanba Zao

Posted 2020-11-06

Mapou is the name of a sacred tree which grows in Haiti. This tree was there long before Europeans and Africans arrived and has become a place where people and spirits meet. To the vodou people, the mapou tree is a magical link to the Tainos – the first people to inhabit Haiti. It is also a place where the spirits rest – the spirits which are so important in the lives of Haitians. The best-known mapou tree is where the vodou pilgrims gather in the village of Souvenans, where a great and powerful rite takes place at Easter. This rite aims to recall the long journey from Africa, slavery in the New World and the struggle for freedom from slavery and for equality. This is what vodou is about, in addition to the spiritual identity of the individual and the collective and community. The Souvenans temple has its own rhythms to accompany song and dance. Through the music, the members of the congregation preserve the memory of their country of origin Dahomey – the ancient kingdom in the present-day Benin in Western Africa. My friend and colleague Sanba Zao has learned their unique music since the 1980s and has through his knowledge and dedication influenced an entire generation of Port-au-Prince musicians. He was one of the foremost figures in what came to be known as « Mouvman mizik rasinn » (roots music movement) which I regard as Haitis answer to our Nordic folk music wave. Since 2012 I have been privileged to cooperate with Sanba Zao, thus gaining insight into this fantastic music. In 1970 I landed in Haiti for the first time, spending a year there. My observations and powerful experiences during that year have greatly influenced my life. The folk music of Haiti and the creole language – spoken by all Haitians – have not least become a great part of my life as a musician. Our Swedish and Nordic folk music has also been an important part of my music-making. In Filarfolket in the 1980s and later in the groups Den Fule och Bäsk, we explored the possibilities of using Haitian drum music in the Nordic tradition. Additionally, my cooperation with Boukman Eksperyans, Wawa and Sanba Zao has been and still is invaluable. My band Simbi has worked together with these musicians many times in Sweden, Haiti, the USA and Canada. After many years of working with these two esteemed and living music traditions, the Haitian and the Nordic, I have managed to bring them together and find ways for them to combine without the need to compromise with identity or originality. A new music has thus been created. (Obs! I originaltexten står ”orginalitet”) My album Mapou – Haitian Drums and Northern Wind is a tribute to Haiti’s ritual music – an art form of its own with a unique musical sound – which developed in Haiti’s vodou temples. This album is at one and the same time a tribute to the struggle of Haitians for independence and human dignity. Mapou is also a tribute to Nordic traditional music and to the insight that each people has a story to tell via its music. Music gives us a sense of community. To my mind, the great Mapou tree with its enormous roots and branches is a symbol of this longing for community.

Here is a trailer for the Mapou album:

LOUIS LESLY « Sanba Zao » MARCELIN

The singer, drummer and composer Louis Lesly Marcelin alias SANBA ZAO was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti 1954. Raised with american pop-rock music at the time he became one of the first young musicians from the haitian capital to discover the rich folk music among the people in the countryside. He started studying the great and complex ritual drum music in the religious compound Souvenans in northern Haiti. Zao together with other musicians like him started the Mizik Rasinn (Roots music) movement in the beginning of 1980’s. Zao was an important member of Group Ca, Foula Jazz and Sanba Yo. Boukman Eksperyans was also part of this movement.

Later on he formed Djakata, a band based on drumming and singing. Zao came to be a very conscious researcher in traditional vodou music with all its rhythms and songs and as such he has worked as a teacher at l’ENARTS, the Academy of Fine Arts in Port-au-Prince.

The last years he has been involved in the haitian band Lalou Mizik and many other collaborations abroad both as a musician and pedagouge for example in Sweden with the Vodou music band Simbi. This on-going collaboration with Sten Källman, Simbi and the Choir Amanda started in 2012.


all records with Sten Källman & Sanba Zao

more info

Some of Sten Källman’s music projects:

1975-79 TEXT & MUSIK – progg-fusion
1979-82 NEO MINORE – greek music
1980-1989 FILARFOLKET – swedish folk music
1987- SIMBI Vodou Beat – Haitian music
1990- DEN FULE – nordic folk music
1997-06 BÄSK – swedish folk music
2007- TRIO SAMARA/SAMARA ENSEMBLE
2019 ZOBOP, Henrik Cederblom quartet
PROJECTS:  Det blåser upp – Songs from Haiti in swedish for and with children
Song of Songs, romantic lyrical vocal music
The Orient – Songs at the horizon
Sånger att brinna till Songs byJonathan Hilli
Haitian music with vocal ensemble AMANDA