In the early 20th century Haiti developed a tradition of “twobadou” (troubadour) music, which was a personal, folksy style like American blues. In the ’30s and ’40s, big bands had replaced “twobadou” as the most popular music and by the ’50s Haitian band leader Nemours Jean-Baptiste had pioneered a style known as COMPAS, which wedded Haitian folk music with merengue rhythms (1-2, 1-2–we’ll look at meremgue below), African percussion and American big band jazz. According to’s brief introduction to COMPAS, “Although similar to merengue, compas has a more driving rhythm; its moderate tempo is paced by a steady bass, which anchors the drum and cowbell percussion.” Or, as The New York Times puts it: “COMPAS, Haiti’s pop music, is a mass of rhythmic complication, in which syncopations are accented and pass for downbeats, and rhythms interlock and repeat, all for the benefit of dancers.” Watch COMPAS favorites Tabou Combo perform live in L’Olympia.

Documentary about Kompas Direct:

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