Emeline Michel is a Haitian singer-songwriter whose voice has earned her the title “the Joni Mitchell of Haiti” as well as comparisons to Tracy Chapman and Sarah McLaughlin, among other culturally significant artists. At the same time, Michel goes beyond any comparison, offering a unique sound which reflects a wide range of musical influences such as pop, jazz, reggae, and traditional Haitian rhythms.
Born in Gonaives, Michel’s first performances as a child were in the gospel choir of her family’s church. At age twelve, Michel began taking traditional Haitian dance lessons, where she was first introduced to Haitian drumming. As a college student, Michel spent a semester studying at the Detroit Jazz Center before returning to Haiti. Michel is a true global citizen, touring around the world and having lived in Haiti, France, Canada, and the US.
Following the 1986 coup and repressive dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s subsequent departure from the country, Haiti witnessed an explosion of creative output, particularly in the form of traditional Haitian music. During this time, Michel was inspired by such trailblazing artists as Boukman Eksperyans, a Grammy-nominated group whose style, known as mizik rasin (or “roots music”), blends voodoo instrumentals with rock n’ roll. In the 80’s and 90’s, Michel rose to prominence as a pop artist, while increasingly incorporating elements of jazz, blues, and Haitian drumming, as well as pan-Caribbean musical forms such as reggae, tango, and bolero, into her music. Beyond being an accomplished and acclaimed musician and singer, Emeline Michel is also a composer, arranger, and dancer bringing her personal touch and artistic vision to all her performances.
Michel has used her international acclaim to draw attention to social issues such as poverty, domestic abuse, and women’s rights abuses within and beyond her native Haiti. These themes appear in songs such as “Viejo,” the haunting tale of two Haitian sugar cane workers living in the Dominican Republic, and “Djonnie,” a song which addresses victims of domestic abuse directly with lines such as “Lanmou se lonè, se respè”: Love is honor, respect. As a singer and an activist, Michel has performed at the United Nations and MTV’s “Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief” telethon, and has spoken on panels such as Brooklyn College’s “Voices from Haiti: Artists as Activists.” She continues to inspire new generations of Haitian and Haitian diaspora musicians as well as artists and listeners around the world.
Shortly after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, MTV introduced Emeline Michel to US audiences as the “Joni Mitchell of Haiti”, a title that many other music journalists often repeat when writing about her. Additionally, in promotional materials, Michel and her team frequently employ the term “ambassador” in order to actively present herself as a committed cultural ambassador for Haiti. Her fans deeply connect not only to her beautiful voice but also to her authentic and energetic expression of Haitian culture. Through her ongoing humanitarian and cultural work, Emeline Michel more than lives up to these accolades and comparisons.
See description of upcoming Emeline Michel performance.
For further information, visit Emeline Michel’s Official Page: http://www.emeline-michel.com
The Emeline Michel Interview: The Songstress on Love, Life and Her Career in Music