Martha Jean-Claude

  • Birth: March 21, 1919
  • Birthplace: Port-Au-Prince
  • Year Active: 1942-2001

Biography

Known as  a soloist, singer, and actor at an early age she was already a star. Performing in Sunday mass at Port-Au-Prince Cathedral was just the beginning. She made her professional debut in 1942 at Rex Theatre. From that point on, Martha was often starring in folkloric concerts with singer/dancer Emerantes Despradines.

In 1952, while pregnant, she was imprisoned under the oppressive Magloire regime for publishing the p lay Avrinette that was qualified as subversive by the government. Two days before going into labor, Marth a was released from jail. Merely a month after giving birth, she left Haiti to join her Cuban born husband in his native land, Cuba. In her newly adopted country, she became a star, performing on radio, television and with many orches tras. In 1956, she published her first album, Canciones de Haiti. Garry Talent, Moonkool lead singer, portrays her as a singer of great range.

Her vast knowledge of Haitian folklore is evident in all her songs. She produc ed many albums such as; Canciones de Haiti (1956); Martha Canta a Los Ninos (1971); Yo Soy la Cancion de Hait i (1975); Agwe (1976); Mwen se Fanm 2 Peyi/ Soy Mujer de Dos Islas (1995). By 1957, Martha was living in Mexico and working on the film Yambo with the Cuban-Mexican actress Nin on Svilla. Her show Afro Cabaret was very popular on television. In 1958, when she returned to Cuba, she decided to join the revolutionaries. After Batista was overthrown, she became some sort of an ambassador for the Cuban revolution, and Haitian culture. She has performed in many countries including Montreal, An gola, Paris, Panama, and Spain.

She even traveled to Angola with the Cuban Army. In 1971, she starred in Simparale, an antiDuvalierist movie that was filmed in Cuba. Locally, she performed for the Cuban ar my and in may other official functions. In 1986, after the Duvalier Regime was overthrown, Martha returned to her native land and had a concert. In a radio interview, Martha claimed that her life has been a fight for social justice. Most of her songs have social undertone, reflecting the voices of our peasants and the downtrodden. Her repertoire is considered as one of the most complete anthologies of Haitian music. Having suffered a prolonged battle with diabetes and other ailments, she died on November 14, 2001 and is survived by four children.