Coupé Cloué was the alias of Jean Gesner Henry, a guitarist, singer and band leader born in Léogâne in 1925. At the age of 26 he started playing guitar, adopting the twoubadou style based on the sound brought back to Haiti by cane cutters who had worked in Cuba. Coupé’s first band, Trio Select, championed a synthesis of jazz, Haitian méringue and folk rhythms, and helped to popularise the use of the guitar in Haiti in the 1950s and 60s.
Coupé’s trio released their first records in the late 1960s, and evolved a rhythmic formula related to Haitian compas (commercial dance music) but retaining a Cuban flavour. A major part of Coupé’s appeal with the Haitian masses was his use Creole lyrics and raps, full of current slang, double entendres and jokes. On his first tour of central Africa in 1975, fans gave Coupé the nickname, Le Roi (The King), testimony to the international appeal of his brand of dance music. A giant of the Haitian music scene with over 40 years as a performer, and producer of more than 24 records, Coupé Cloué died in early 1998.
Recommended listening – Coupé Cloué: Maximum Compas From Haiti (Virgin Records 1992)