Born: May 10, 1925 | Died: January 29, 1998 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor/leader
Jean Gesner Henri was born in Leogane, Haiti on May 10th 1925.
Jean Gesner Henri was known as Coupé Cloué, a nick name he acquired as a result of his prowess on the soccer pitch (coupe means cut, and cloue, nail).Inspired by Cuban bolero and son, he began to perform as a guitarist in Port-au Prince in 1951.
In 1957 he formed Trio Crystal which was later renamed Trio Select. They played their own version of twoubadou music in the clubs and parties of Port-au-Prince. Twoubadou is a style of music based on the sounds brought back to Haiti by Haitian cane cutters who had worked in Cuba.
Coupé's first band, Trio Select, championed a synthesis of jazz, Haitian mérengue and folk rhythms, and helped to popularize the use of the guitar in Haiti in the 1950s and 60s.Trio Select featured Coupé himself, a second guitarist and a maracas player. A more common name for the maracas in Haiti is Tcha-Tcha. The group serenaded at small parties and finally in 1960 they released their first album.
Trio Select evolved a rhythmic formula related to Haitian compas but retaining a Cuban flavor. A major part of Coupé's appeal with the Haitian masses was his use of Creole lyrics and raps, full of current slang, double entendres and jokes. As the band grew in the 1970s they changed the name from Trio Selct to Ensemble Select de Coupé Cloué.
Coupé Cloué became ROI COUPÉ - On his first tour of central Africa in 1975, Coupé Cloué toured West Africa, where the local soukous music had a distinct similarity to the group's own sound; this where Coupé Cloué was given the title Le Roi (the king) by local African fans.
Coupé Cloué produced over thirty albums for many different Haitian labels in his thirty years as a performer. His consistency and productivity are stunning achievements in a country were the music has witnessed such drastic changes; from the advent of rock-influenced mini jazz bands in the late 60s, to the big horn sections of the late 70s, and to the synthesizer and electronic revolution of the 80s. More recently compas has been challenged in Haiti by roots-oriented styles and a movement dubbed the new generation.
Meanwhile Coupé and his band kept doing what they do best: producing lyrically-clever and enjoyable dance music. While many of Haiti's best artist fled the country for the relative security of Haitian communities in the U.S and Canada Coupé remained at home.
However, as the decade progressed the diabetes he had developed began to take its toll. He gave his final performance in December 1997 and died a month later.
Jean Gesner Henry, AKA Coupé Cloué, Haitian musical legend, died on January 29, 1998