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Interview with Dener Ceide of Zafèm: Revisited

Even before Dener Ceide belted out the first soulful notes of the lyrics in Dlo Dous that have propelled him to become one of the most famous musicians in the HMI now —I could feel the power of his talent by some of the work he has previously worked on and his presence in the legendary Tabou Combo. I decided that I wanted to have a real conversation with him, an honest conversation to dig deeper into who he was and what his future plan was for the HMI. He humbly agreed to the interview.

I conducted this interview with Dener Ceide in May 2014. I’ve been searching the internet to see if there are any earlier extensive interviews of Dener over the net before my initial interview with him., I have yet to find one. Haitianbeatz had always prouded ourselves to open our platform to many artists in their infancy, not only when they have reached their peak. This is one such example:

New York, May 5 2014 Dener Ceide: The Radiant

By Moses St Louis

HB- Tell us a little bit about your background? DC- I was born and raised in the southern part of Haiti (in the outskirts of Saint Louis Du Sud, more specifically a town named Cherette) and began developing a love affair with music very early on. I started playing percussions at the age of five until I fell in love with the guitar that became the thread of my musical career. In Cherette, I was surrounded by all kinds of rhythms, such as Rara and church music and was fascinated by what I used to listen on the AM radio. I remember experiencing a feeling of bliss each and every time I heard someone singing our traditional songs rich with such beautiful melodies. I developed an insatiable curiosity to understand all the elements of music around me. HB- What are your musical memories growing up? Listening to the bands that came to perform during “fete champet” was always the most beautiful time of the year. Another one that comes to mind is meeting Liney Edouard R.I.P. who was at the time one of the greatest guitar players in the area. I had asked my mother to allow me to attend a “kermes,” and during his performance, Liney handed me his guitar and said loudly “this boy is going to replace me.” A couple of months later he passed on. I felt as if he had handed me the torch... This encounter was a very special and determinant moment of my musical life. I would be reminisced if I did not mention the beautiful and powerful “KOMBIT” melodies that we call “boula” (sung while farming). Last but not least, discovering European music while being exposed to the catholic liturgy.

HB- Did you come from a musical family? DC- Indeed. My mother, who had a tremendous influence in my musical upbringing, was the leader of the local choir. As a child, I regularly attended her choir rehearsals. Being immersed in this environment permitted me to learn the basics of vocal harmony. HB- What does konpa mean to you? DC- It means beauty, joy, music that we can dance to and also a powerful tool that can and should be used to transform our society for the better. HB- Who has influenced you most in your music writing and playing? DC- I can say that I am influenced by a diverse array of musicians from Dadou Pasquet to Pat Metheny from Robert Martino to Joe Satriani... Frantz Casseus to Andres Segovia and by a great friend of mine Jimmy Jean Felix. From time to time I discover new players around the world that fascinate me. As for writing... Stevie Wonder, Roger Colas, Bob Marley, Juan Luis Guerra, Djavan, Beethovas Obas, Manno Charlemagne, Boukman Eksperyans, Emeline Michel, Adele, The Beatles, Tabou Combo, Papash, Zenglen, klass, Harmonik... :) too many to name HB- Are there any songs you play that have special significance to you? DC- yes!... songs like Mwen te pati Papash David Ti Manno Tande Boukan Ginen Last train home Pat Metheny Zimbabwe Bob Marley Siwo Tabou Combo Nan male m ye Manno Charlemagne I can keep going... those songs basically have shaped me while growing up in Haiti and some of them basically expressed the charged, transformative but chaotic and intolerable socio-political moments and upheavals we were enduring... On the other hand, some others made me feel and understand, at an early age, that music can make us experience divine feelings .

.. HB- You have helped produce many songs for different artists and bands, do you enjoy the production side and do you plan to do more? DC- Of course. I thoroughly enjoy the production aspect because, as a creative person, I love to explore with other talents; it’s magical. I hope to continue producing artist/bands. I also intend to go beyond producing for others. It is as you can imagine the natural course of things. I currently love performing and hopefully in the near future I look forward to sharing some of my new compositions with the public. HB- One of the songs that is considered a hit on the Klass’ album is “you don’t want me”, which you co- written with Pipo, can you take us through the producing process? DC- When Pipo came with the idea, I told him: “lets develop it...” it was just a regular song for his album... I went back to the studio in order to find some poignant melodies like “ se kom yon maladi l ye, le w ke finn tombe l pran tan pou li leve l mache” and some cool arrangements and grooves. I was a bit reluctant to actually use those personal lyrics but I decided to be honest... “Honesty usually works in songwriting.” That song came “like a rain” and I sent it to Pipo. The rest, as you know, is history. I frankly did not imagine the song was going to have such a huge impact. I’m grateful and humbled! HB- There have been many rumors that you are in the process of forming your own Konpa band, can you put those rumors to rest or can you confirm them? DC- I’m still thinking about it... but one thing for certain is that I will be playing live when I release my project. HB- How do you balance your musical style? Who would you say is your biggest musical influence that is not a guitarist? DC- I’m still looking for that balance. The goal is to remain authentic; true to the art. Of course I wont depart from my Haitian roots ... rhythms... melodies etc. but I evolve everyday ... I’m exposed to new genres, artists, styles all over the world so it’s hard to label myself. My biggest influence would be Stevie Wonder. HB- How have your approaches to practicing guitar evolved over the years? What did you focus on when you were first learning to play guitar and how has your focus changed between then and now? DC- You know with time I have learned to express more than I impress. As I’m constantly growing musically I’m learning to dig within for the most expressive and meaningful melodies, progressions, Lyrics and pulses rather than playing a lot and saying less. I practice daily and usually start with a simple scale or playing a classical piece that I love. HB- Again going back to your younger years, can you talk a little bit about the guitar playing skills that you had the most trouble developing? What where the practice approaches that you used to finally master them? DC- Understanding bebop was very challenging (mainly as it relates to going over the changes...) I’m still working on it though :) Being comfortable playing over progressions requires dedications, hours of daily practice.

HB- What do you think was the single greatest attribute that contributed to you becoming the great guitar player that you are today? DC- Thank you! One thing I know is that my unquenchable love for music has been the main drive towards betterment/improvement. Moreover, I love the sound of the guitar; I try my best to play it as much as possible just to hear its beauty. Finally, I can say that I listen to the Greats HB- When you practice guitar, what do you think are the top 1-3 things that one absolutely must do in order to make the maximum progress possible from their guitar practice time? DC- Playing slow, a simple scale with a metronome Learning something new Enhancing ones tone HB- When you were younger and you were listening to your favorite guitar players, did you ever wonder things such as “Will I ever reach their level of guitar playing?” Did you ever have moments when you doubted your potential to reach your guitar playing goals? DC- Frankly, I’ve never questioned the future but remained passionate at all times... as long as I have the fire, I’m good. Until now I still wonder and am in wonder of how certain players do some tricks on the guitar. I have always wanted to have the ability and skills to play whatever I felt like or heard; no boundaries or limits (technical or other). However, I am by nature patient and an avid learner. I enjoy exploring new territories and challenging myself. I am also a firm believer in: “when there is a will there is a way” that there is always a way to accomplish what one truly desires. Thus, no matter how long it takes I remain confident that I will find a way; my way! HB- Do you think that there is a particular guitar technique or musical skill that one needs to continuously work on regardless of how advanced they become as guitar players? DC- Rather than a technique I would advice for a frame of mind that can be simply summed up as such: Keep challenging yourself and keep taking risks. Our imagination can run deep into the ocean if we allow ourselves to let go and renew our minds with proper substance. In my humble view this is the recipe for longevity, advancement, betterment, creativity... that’s what I believe is the frame of mind of great inventors, creators. HB- As the youngest musician in the legendary band Tabou Combo, why haven’t you taken over and create a transition to a more youthful Tabou Combo? DC- I am not currently a member of the legendary Tabou Combo but can definitely say that I have been privileged and blessed to have shared the stage with such accomplished talents. Tabou’s catalog is part of our musical heritage and what this band has been able to accomplish around the world should be a matter of pride for all Haitians and Haitian musicians. I am confident that they will bless us with amazing music as only they can and for the years to come. HB- Which musician are you the closest to in Tabou Combo? When will Tabou release a next album and what role will you be playing in it?What’s the future plan for you? Anything you want to add? DC- I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the musicians of Tabou and I’m definitely in great terms with every member. I can also say that Reynal Valme is a very cool guy plus he plays one of my favorite instruments (You know I have to give him props :)

As far as any questions regarding the band, I am positive that these would be best answered by the original members.

Right now I’m working with different artists planning to release some of my new compositions in a project carrying my culture and exposing it’s beauty for the world to see. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to the public. STAY TUNED!

HB- Thank You Dener for your time and good luck in all you bright future. Hope for another interview soon.

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