Hopefully you’re already familiar with his music, but if not, meet Murat Jean Belony, also known as Bélo.  Born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, he is a socially conscious singer-songwriter behind some of my favorites jams such as “M’damou“, “Jasmine“, “Match”, “Lakou Tranquil“, “Kote Moun Yo” and now “Banm Nouvel Ou”. Last year, he toured the US as part of Center Stage‘s initiative which brings artists from abroad to the U.S to engage in cultural diplomacy.  One of the stops on his itinerary was the Kravis Center in Downtown West Palm Beach, where he put on an amazing show despite the rain.

Today I bring you an interview with this artist, BélO, who graciously took the time to answer some questions about his music, inspiration, upcoming tours, and announces that he’s expecting a newborn.

“In Haiti, we have many good female voices, but only a few are known. Times are changing, and we need to create more space for our ladies. Men are not superior or inferior to women. We just complement each other.”

—BélO

Tell me about yourself and your music.

My name is BélO, I am a Haitian International artist who started to sing at a very young age, and became a cultural ambassador for Haiti in 2005 with my first album “Lakou Trankil“. My music is a fusion of Haitian traditional music; all kind of good sounds coming from all my influences (Reggae, Jazz, Pop, Blues, Rock, etc). The mission of my music is to educate my people, help make change by promoting positivity through arts, and of course showing the positive face of Haiti to the world.


When you decided to pursue music as a career, did you encounter any reservations from family?

My mother of course did not want a musician in the family. I promised her that I would finish school first. I have a degree in accounting. I had to wait until I finished school before I could come out with my first album even though I had an offer from Fabrice Rouzier and Keke Belizaire (Haitian musicians/producers) to produce my album 7 years earlier.


Are there any singers/musicians who’ve inspired you?

Bob Marley, Buju Banton, Emeline Michel, Beethovas Obas, Tracy Chapman, Boukman Eksperyans are some of the musicians/band who’ve inspired me to become a singer.


When working on a new song, where do you draw your inspiration from?

My country inspires me. The everyday living in Haiti is a big source of inspiration. People around me inspire me. I don’t go looking to create a song, it just comes to me from the Lord, and sometimes the guitar sound comes first or sometimes the melody, and sometimes just an idea and the rest follows.


In your latest video, ‘Banm Nouvel Ou’ — which more or less translates to “tell me how you’re doing” — you sing about your girlfriend, played by Princess Eud, who’s secretive about the time spent rehearsing and recording her album due to lack of support of female musicians. Why do you think that is?

In Haiti, we have many good female voices, but only a few are known. Times are changing, and we need to create more space for our ladies. Men are not superior or inferior to women. We just complement each other. In the “Banm Nouvel Ou” music video, I wanted to relay this message to my macho brothers. I wanted to show our Haitian female singers in a different light, not just as eye candy.


How many Haitian female musicians can you think of? Emeline Michel comes to mind.

Beside Emeline Michel, I can think of Tifane, Darline Desca, Rutshelle Guillaume, Miu, Princess Eud, Barbarra Guillaume, Manze Dayila, Manze from Boukman Eksperyans, Lunise Morse (Ram), Yole Derose, Fabienne Denis, Misty Jean, Martine Marseille, etc.


What do your tour dates look like for the remainder of 2013?

I will be performing at The 47th Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland and at the Festival Montreal Sou Konpa in Canada.  My management team and I decided to slow it down a bit.  It was very hectic last year traveling all the time.  I have a newborn on the way, and I am working on my new album set to be released in 2014.


I can’t let you go without asking you this: what is your favorite dish?

I love Haitian food, Haitian food and Haitian food! I love du riz kole a pois woug (rice and red beans). I think the hardest part of traveling is that I don’t always find Haitian food. My team always tries to find a Haitian restaurant in the country where I am playing and add it to my itinerary.

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