Haitian Group RAM Tours U.S.
Celebrated Haitian group RAM continue on their U.S. Tour, which comes to SOB's, 204 Varick St., New York City, Friday, June 16. Showtime: 11:00 pm. Tickets: $25. (advance), $30. (door). Must be 21 and over to enter. Info: (212) 243-4940 or visit http://sobs.com/.
RAM encompasses a musical style created in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the 1970s when musicians began combining elements of traditional Haitian Vodou ceremonial and folkloric music with rock and roll. The band derives its name from the initials of its founder, songwriter, and lead male vocalist, Richard A. Morse. RAM's music has been described by Morse as "vodou rock 'n' roots" and includes influences from the blues, funk music, and occasional riffs from famed punk group The Clash. RAM began performing together in 1990, and recorded their first album in 1996. RAM's songs include lyrics in Kreyol, French, and English.
Eventually, Morse became so involved in the Vodou religion through his music that he was initiated as a houngan, or Vodou priest, in 2002. Describing a RAM concert, Morse explains, "Yes, you might see our dancers go into a trance. Some get possessed by the loas, to the rhythm of the drums, but it's a natural state when it happens. You can't fake it."
RAM is famous for its regular Thursday night performances at the Hotel Oloffson in downtown Port-au-Prince, attended by hotel guests and a wide spectrum of the country's political and racial groups. During the years of the military junta of Raoul Cedras, one of the band's singles, "Fey", was banned nationwide by the military authorities who perceived it to be a song of support for exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The band continued to play weekly concerts in defiance of death threats from the regime, while Morse only narrowly escaped a kidnapping at the hotel in 1994. RAM began recording albums in 1996, after United States military intervention restored Aristide to power. In 1998, the group clashed with the newly-elected mayor of Port-au-Prince, a supporter of Aristide, and survived an assassination attempt during their Carnival performance. Through its song lyrics, RAM continued to provoke the antagonism of both the supporters of Aristide and former military regimes.
In 2016 RAM released the critically-acclaimed full-length album, RAM 6:Manman me se Ginen, the band's first studio album in ten years. "This generation is electric. But the rhythms are traditional," said vocalist, Richard Morse. "The melodies are traditional. We have taken the ceremonial and mixed with the street. That's when you hear the rara horns," a mix that leaps out on tracks like "Papa Loko." "We've added street music to a band, and taken more arranged band stuff out into the streets."