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The 'Roots And Grooves' Of Haiti's Wind Master

Haiti’s rich musical tradition has given to the world many gifted artists and musicians, and Jowee Omicil is no exception. His mastery of just about every wind instrument turns his latest album Roots and Grooves into a musical world journey from Afro-jazz to Haitian kompa to soul.

Born in Canada to Haitian parents, Omicil was first introduced to music by his father, a minister. His sister played the organ in church and his brother the trumpet, so Omicil chose to play the saxophone.

"That was always his dream. He wanted a symphony," Omicil says about his father's efforts to have all of his children play in the church band.

But Omicil's passion for the sax developed into much more than an after-school hobby. He began practicing for hours every day and has never stopped since, turning music into a career. Now Omicil can play everything from the saxophone to the flute and even the piccolo.

"I like to experiment because I always try to create something, so I always want to learn -- I am learning every day basically," he tells Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

His experiment of mixing different instruments and styles has made each of the 15 tracks on the album a story to remember. Going back to his Haitian roots, he has dedicated one of the songs to the people of Haiti: "4 My People." Omicil, who now lives in Miami, says he has been deeply affected by the plight of his people.

"I'm not good. I'm not good, because my people are suffering,"  he says.

But Omicil says he hopes the past weekend's presidential election in Haiti -- now roiled in controversy, with many of the 18 candidates alleging fraud -- will bring about change.

"I want to hope that every single person that's running for office right now -- the presidency -- should have the people at heart," he adds.

Omicil says he's a fan of presidential candidate -- and fellow musician -- Michel Martelly, also known as "Sweet Micky," who has worked to energize the youth vote.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff