After the releasing the exquisite Radyo Siwèl in 2018, Mélissa Laveaux has returned with a fourth studio album : Mama Forgot Her Name Was Miracle: a spiritual, poetic and highly emancipatory disc.
When she first stepped out in 2008, Mélissa Laveaux could already showed signs of her talent as a songwriting alchemist on her first album, Camphor & Copper (No Format), loosely revealing the contours of her cosmogeny: a guitar offered by her father at age 13, poetic lyrics in English and Haitian Creole, cat-like vocals, a haunting blues repertoire where mystery resides.
She who starts out her musical path in Ottawa's own feminist riot grrrl punk community, pursues her endeavors across the Atlantic to settle down in Paris where she’s been living ever since, giving way to the age of her second disc Dying is a Wild Night (2013, NO Format!), a record firmly inspired by her initiatory foray into adult life across the ocean.
Uprooting is also a learned trait and a musical influence for Laveaux, whose own family, made their own journey from Haiti to Montreal while a favorite militant singer, Martha Jean-Claude - was herself displaced to Cuba during the 50s, for speaking out of bounds during the Duvalier dictatorships.
A link to Haiti, which brought Mélissa to re/collecting the songs of her childhood, songs of resistance, of many rebellions, even the very first on the island. Restoring her bond with her parents’ home, Laveaux dug into the country’s ethnomusicological landscape, its musical traditions, with Radyo Siwèl (2018, NO format!/Bonsound). She exhumes nursery rhymes and lost songs, reminding us just how much music can instrumental to political resistance. After a triumphant tour, ending at Paris’ Trianon in October 2019, the guitarist, songstress and poet reveals a more intimate facet.
At 37, Mélissa Laveaux dives into the therapeutic and spiritual aspects of music by looking into the ancestral practice of the lullaby.
If the rituals and models we have inherited are sometimes lacking, outdated or perhaps even evolving backwards, we are free to innovate, to defect!
In Mama Forgot Her Name Was Miracle, Mélissa Laveaux rewilds the lullaby by summoning powerful voices from the ether, from another time, from Audre Lorde to the Goddess Lilith, to create a very novel pantheon of mythologies.
Alternative. Modern. Subversive.
Re-imagining the space occupied by legends means to effect change in the present.
Like an archivist, documenting the struggle for feminist and social justice, like a ferrywoman tying different epochs together, Mélissa Laveaux invokes a community of heroines that History has deliberately forgotten or cast aside to the margins. Many archetypes whose talent, gull, engagement, resilience and free will make up an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the musician. From one song to the next, one might meet the ikes of Harriet Tubman, Jackie Shane, Audre Lorde, Helen Stephens, mother of demons Lilith, Pope Joan (the Papessa of Visconti), the pirate Ching Shih, writers Alice Walker, James Baldwin, artists Faith Ringgold, Ana Mendieta and even poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs...
From healers to warriors, to members of this choir of courage, who insisted (and insist) on making a place for themselves, refusing to make do with merely surviving, or to ascribe to assigned norms or to suffer a fate that was never chosen. The likes of the pioneering trans soul singer Jackie Shane, whose recently rediscovered love anthems have paved the way for those who’ve come after her. The likes of Ching Shih, the Chinese sex worker turned the most successful pirate of the southern seas in the early 19th century. Or the likes of Harriet Tubman, former slave, liberating hundreds of others on the underground railroad and on the battle fields the American Civil War. Forever hyphenating worlds and cultures, music therapy, melodic spell casting, the lullaby remains, after all, a gesture of care, the song being an expression of pure love. A magic ritual abound with incantations, prayers and keys, mystic or metaphorical, to find the strength to deconstruct one’s fears, transcend trauma et be rise again healed, or at least more seasoned. An electric charm necklace worn by a dialogue between the rhythms of the Caribbean and West Africa, Mama Forgot Her Name Was Miracle says Let’s dare to live! Ferociously, flamboyantly and free! (subjectification)
Strength in unity, the old adage is already proof enough for Mélissa Laveaux to surround herself with a brigade of sorcerers of sound: here we must mention Guillaume Ferran (keys, piano, bass piano), Voyou (trumpet, clarinette), Clyde Rabatel (keys, piano), Mathieu Gramoli (drums), Steve Yameogo (bass, guitar), Sébastien Delage (guitars). A few allies of choice came to join the chorus: November Ultra (« Rosewater"), Oxmo Puccino ("Lilith") and even Fin Greenall aka Fink (!7Sisters »). An immense album to be enjoyed live.
In Mama Forgot Her Name Was Miracle, Mélissa Laveaux’s political poetry and her folk-blues groove are elevated by the gifts of creativity, joy, beauty, metamorphosis or even intuition. For us and for herself as well, Mélissa reignites, as the storyteller emerging out of the deep waters, a miraculous vital force, which, despite appearances, can never entirely be stomped out.