The Kennedy Center

Tabou Combo


"Rhythm is the essence of Tabou Combo," says Tabou Combo's co-founder Herman Nau. The infectious rhythm of Haiti's national dance music, Konpa (con-pah), has propelled the country's preeminent dance band around the world. By the time Tabou Combo's 12 members left Haiti and relocated to New York City in 1971, they had already established themselves as Haiti's number one group and Ambassadors of Konpa. Tabou Combo now has worldwide fans and followers from Europe, Asia, South America, throughout the Caribbean, and in North America.

It is easy to understand why Tabou Combo's relentless and high-energy style of Konpa knows no language barrier. Singing in English, Spanish, French, or their native Creole, Tabou serves a hot mix of grooves and textures with roots from around the world. They add a strong dose of meringue from their neighbor, the Dominican Republic, to a mix of Haiti's dance-till-you-drop carnival music rara, the hypnotic drums of Haitian voodoo rituals, quadrilles and contra-dances from Haiti's French colonizers, and American funk for good measure. Tabou layers drums, percussion, congas, guitars, piano, and a 3-man horn section.

Tabou Combo, originally named Los Incognitos, was formed in 1968 in Petion-Ville, a town just outside Port-au-Prince, by then teenagers Albert Chancy, Herman Nau, and friends. They changed their name to Tabou Combo in 1969, and won first prize in a televised talent contest, gaining a national reputation in Haiti. By 1970 Tabou was one of the island's leading bands. The band dissolved when Chancy left for college, and its members drifted to the United States. Early in 1971, however, an unexpected meeting led to a Tabou reunion with rhythm guitarist Jean-Claude Jean as the leader and the band has been together (with a few changes) ever since. Almost four decades after Tabou Combo's formation, the band has audiences dancing everywhere from concert halls to the streets and in night clubs around the world. Says Fanfan, the band's background vocalist and main songwriter, "We want people to dance and forget their sorrows." Though their music is made for dancing, Tabou also features lyrics that focus on social issues of the day.

Since capturing Europe's attention in 1974with its million selling hit single “New York City,” Tabou has steadily been building its international following ever since. The 1989 release, Aux Antiilles (The Antilles), topped European and Caribbean charts for six consecutive weeks, and won Best Album for Haitian Dance Music at the 1st Annual Caribbean Music Awards in 1991at New York City's famed Apollo Theater. Tabou's release, Kitem Fe Zafem (Let Me Do My Things), was voted among Beat Magazine's Best of 1988. In 1989, Kitem Fe Zafem, along with Zap Zap, were used in Jonathan Demme’s movie Mystery Date. French film maker Maurice Pialat used the song “Juicy Lucy” for his movie Police. In 2002, Carlos Santana recorded the song “Mabouya” on his album Shaman.

After traveling around the world with Tabou, Fanfan has found that people are all the same and all love music. Tabou Combo seduces listeners with rhythm that won’t let go.
Tabou Combo