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Gede Nibo

Gede Nibo


35:00 minutes




David Bontemps


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1934, the year of the end of the American occupation of Haiti, the composer Ludovic Lamothe (1882-1953) won the Port-au-Prince Carnaval competition with his famous meringue ‘Nibo’, named after one of the gods of the Haitian voodoo pantheon. Gédé Nibo was a legendary prince of a West African Kingdom who sacrificed his life on a quest into the underworld to find a cure for a fatal epidemic that plagued his people. Gédé’s sole request to his people was to have libations poured on his grave in his remembrance.

Symbol of the cycle of life and death, guardian of cemeteries and protector of children, Gédé’s spirit is especially invoked in Haiti to bluntly denounce social biases, while dancing to the sensual and royal Banda rhythm. The track, Gédé Nibo, contains 12 variations, which pay homage to the genius of Lamothe, and are a way of translating Gede’s spirit unto piano- a musical manifestation of the woes, the strength and hopes of a people.


« Ankh », the Egyptian hieroglyph, meaning ‘life’ is depicted as a cross with a ring or handle- very intriguing given that it dates 6000 years before Christianity. In America, the statues of the goddess Sakhmet at the Metropolitan Museum of New York offer the public a grand viewing opportunity of the Ankh. The statues are incarnations of violence, natural disasters, and plagues- calamities to which the Ankh, held in the left hand of the impassive stone bodies responds, “life”. Likewise, this symbolism is present in David Bontemps’ powerful musical piece, composed in 2010 after a terrible earthquake ravaged Haiti. As though written exclusively for a musician deprived of the use of their right hand, the piece poses an immense challenge to the pianist, rather like Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. Ankh is a telluric piece, whose drama plays in the depths of the piano.

Claude Dauphin, musicologist.

Bontemps, David
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