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root salad Germa Adan

And our second touch of Haiti this issue, though now based in England. Steve Hunt finds out more.


erma Adan’s debut seven track mini-album Kenebe Fem / Hold Firm – an intriguing collection of songs drawn from Haitian lullaby,

Sacred Harp, English tradition and original compositions, quickly became a topic of excited conversation in the gilded corridors of fRoots on its release in June 2017. Just a few weeks later she was one of the artists featured in our annu- al Cellarful Of Folkadelia events at Sidmouth Folk- Week, performing with vio- linist Mahaliah Edwards.

Born in Haiti, educated in the United States and resi- dent in England, Germa is a recipient of English Folk Dance & Song Society Cre- ative Seed Funding, to cre- ate new music chronicling her journey and exploring narratives of diasporic life. I met Germa during a rare quiet moment at Sidmouth’s premier swinging hot spot Carinas, where she told me about her musical life.

“It started from being a

baby, really! I grew up in Aux Cayes in Haiti where Christian missionaries from the US had brought a blue- grass gospel music to the island. We always sang as a family and my dad was a guitarist – a twoubadou musician who played in lots of bands in the 1970s. We went to lots of churches that were very similar to Ameri- can Southern Baptist church- es. The songs were similar, but they were in Creole, so we were singing I’ll Fly Away, Will The Circle Be Unbroken and all of that, but just in Creole. Like every family we had a Creole

hymn book that we sang from every day, really.”

We moved to America – to St Paul, Min- nesota, in the 1990s, when I was six. We had a host family who helped us get used to the way of living in America, but it was so cold! My dad knew someone in Kansas City, so we moved there and that’s where I started singing in church. We then moved to Orlan- do, Florida, which is where I picked up the violin. I was at an inner-city school that had

“Post-university, I started listening to Odetta – she was classically-trained too! I fell in love with that sound of hers and wanted to use music in the way that she did – as a tool, not just as an ornament. She saw the need in her time and met it.”

“I met my husband Peter about seven years ago when I was studying abroad in Lancaster. I came here to learn more about the European approach to music making – in the classical world as well as the tradi-

a strings programme and just started pro- gressing a classical music route from there. I went to university to study violin and com- position and developed a love of chamber music. I started writing for small ensembles and also got interested in traditional fiddle tunes at that time.”

21 f

tional world. When I started writing, I didn’t know that singing was for me – I hid behind the violin and the composing, but as I was taking on various jobs, I started singing for fun. I joined a community singing group in Walsall and started singing in churches. After taking any opportunity to sing, lyrics started to come easily. I wanted my lyrics to be reflective of the things that were important for me and had meaning for me. I met a Scottish fiddle player at university and we became friends and both liked the idea of a cultural exchange through music. We started exploring the music of each other’s cultures and that’s where this mélange of influences started.”

particular box – I’m a walking creole-isation of everywhere I’ve been! When I write songs, they’re informed by all of those cultures. I applied for the EFDSS funding and got it. I went to the Vaughan Williams Memori- al Library at Cecil Sharp House and went mad! I wanted to look at old British songs and connect with them. I wanted to explore how a Haitian would have sung those songs and to develop my own interpreta- tions of them.”


“When you think about folk music, a song like The Lark In The Morning sung in Devon is different to The Lark In The Morning sung in Yorkshire, and if it were to be sung in Florida or in Haiti, it would be different again. But I needed to own and inhabit the songs for myself, too. So, coming back to The Lark In The Morning, I approached it not just from the tri-sector of my culture influences, but from thinking of the narrative of women in Haiti, where girls are expected to grow up main- taining their purity. So that song, for me, expresses something of those women who are caged by those expectations. Every song has a message that I’m trying to convey, whether it’s really obvious or not.”

You can hear a track on this issue’s

fRoots 66 compilation.


s a Haitian-Ameri- can living in Eng- land I can’t fit myself into any

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