The streets of New York City were painted red, white, and blue in honor of Haitian Flag Day this past Saturday (May 21). The East River skyline shined brightly as a Haitian invasion gathered at Pier 17 for the return of DJ and record producer Michaël Brun’s Bayo, “a cultural collective and concert.”
Established in 2017, Bayo, which means “to give” in Haitian Kreyòl, is a traveling concert that celebrates the Caribbean country’s rich and diverse history, culture, and music, showcasing artists from the island and throughout the West Indies and African diaspora.
“The main thing I’d love for people to know about Haitian music is how truly diverse it is because there’s everything,” the 30-year-old Port-au-Prince native exclusively shared with VIBE. “I think if you do a little digging you’ll be surprised.”
Created during the first Black republic’s revolution against the French, Haiti’s flag was officially adopted in 1803 on May 18 (the actual date of the holiday). To mark the occasion and as part of Bayo, Pier 17’s breathtaking glass lightband illuminated the waterfront in red and blue, a symbolic backdrop for a sea of flying banners.
Partygoers enjoyed performances from an eclectic lineup of Haitian and international artists including Anie Alerte, Baky, and Bonaire-born singer Ir Sais, who performed “Validé” alongside Creole crooners Mikaben and JPerry.
“It was important for me to represent my culture and my music alongside my peers from Haiti. My music is heavily influenced by Kompa and Zouk, which are embedded into Haitian music. We are all from the Caribbean colonized by different European nations, but we all have the same roots in Africa and our native island tribes,” Ir Sais explained to VIBE about the importance of participating in Bayo, which the Deeper artist described as “one of my favorite experiences on stage in my career.”
JPerry, Michaël Brun’s real-life first cousin, also joined Soca superstar Kes on stage for their slow-wine anthem “Liki Tiki,” which Brun produced and VIBE video premiered back in April. In just more than a month, the collaboration recently reached one million views on YouTube. Described by Brun as a “global song,” he also explained that the track includes influences of Soca, Kompa, and other Caribbean genres with elements of Latin and African music.
Kes praised Brun’s “world scope” and touched on the historical division between Caribbean countries based on differences in culture and language. The Trinidadian artist called the chance to perform “Liki Tiki” for the first time at Bayo “a dream for me to see us unite in our sounds, break language barriers, and really come together and work together towards unifying our movement.”
“It was amazing! I felt like I kinda got a crash course in Haitian culture,” added the “Jolene” singer.
Brun continued to showcase his Haitian pride with performances by the Grammy-nominated Mizik Rasin band Boukman Eksperyans and T-Jo Zenny, the lead vocalist of Compas band Kreyōl La both performances sending the crowd, especially the Zoes, into a joyous frenzy.
“You never know who you’ll see at one of the shows,” teased Brun. He continued to flex his industry cred by bringing even more surprise guests to the Bayo stage including Latin superstar J Balvin, who performed his smash hit “Mi Gente” and the 2018 World Cup theme song “Positivo,” which the Columbian crooner co-wrote with Brun.
Still, Bayo’s pièce de résistance was undoubtedly when Wyclef Jean took the stage to close out the show. The Haitian ambassador performed parts from some of his most successful tracks including the Fugees’ Hip-Hop classic “Fu-Gee-La” and his poignant Mary J. Blige-assisted duet “911.”
As the lights turned on and the packed crowd slowly started to head toward the exits, the thick rooftop air finally began to cool. But, clearly not ready to leave, stragglers were treated to one more surprise as a traditional Rara band, complete with drums and banbous (bamboo one-note trumpets), joined the masses in a spirited song and dance closing out Bayo 2022 with a bang.
Listen out for the sound of banbous in a city near you for Bayo’s next stop, catch Kes live in Toronto at Iz We Toronto on July 23, and check out Ir Sais’ brand new video for “Flauta” alongside Farina and Konshens below.