Nemours Jean-Baptiste

  • Birth: February 2, 1914
  • Birthplace: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
  • Genre: Compas-Direct


Nemours Jean-Baptiste, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on February 2, 1914, is the celebrated creator of Compas rhythm. An accomplished musician, he played the banjo, and saxophone, composed and arranged music. Nemours, the ideal bandleader, attended Jean-Marie Guilloux primary school. He started as a banjo player and was exposed to talented musicians like guitar player Antoine Duverger, saxophonist Victor Flambert, Antoine St-Armant and Chardavoine.

To make ends meet, he became a part-time barber. After acquiring some musical experience, the young Nemours traveled south and joined the Barrateau Destinoble Jazz ensemble as a guitar player. While the band was barnstorming the southern end of Haiti, he seized the opportunity to learn the sax under the guidance of the sax player Barrateau Destinoble. After a short stint with Barrateau's ensemble he founded Trio Anacaona and was later recruited by Orchestre Atomique featuring Robert Camille and Joe Atomik Lavaud.

Later on, Gerard Dupervil, Webert Sicot, Antal Murat and Nemours were part of Conjunto Internacional. Conjunto International is considered by a few as the gestational medium of Kompa. Atomic Junior and Ensembles Calebasses are other bands that shaped Nemours' talent and vision.

For the sake of accuracy, we must mention that before the advent of Kompa, Dominican meringue and Cuban rhythm were so popular in Haiti that the Dominican band Tipico Cibaeno was the hottest ticket in Port-Au-Prince. Many people dreaded such musical acculturation and championed a rhythm of local flavor. Theodore Beaubrun (Languichatte) was one of the many that was relentlessly criticizing Tipico Cibaeno band in his own newspaper, "The Rasoir".

By design, Nemours slows down the Dominican rhythm and added some local seasoning to it. The by-product was a more unique, more original, simpler, and more danceable. In1955, Mozart, Kretzer, Richard Duroseau, Talles, Briol Gaspard, Domingue, Napoleon, and Nemours took us to Compas-land. Propelled by bass drum, snare drum, hi hat, and cowbells, Compas became the sun from which everything else revolves around. His rivalry with Jazz des Jeunes, and Webert Sicot has sometimes been blown out of proportion, but the fact remains that Nemours captured the imagination of an entire generation.

Nemours, died on May 18, 1985 in Port-Au-Prince. A great musician and inventor of Compas rhythm, he is one of the greatest echoes in the history of Haitian music and his name will transcend time.

- Paul Sanon -

Source: Haitian / American Sports and Education Network