Kompa (Compa, Konpa) Music

Kompa, Compa (konpa) music is the number one Haitian pop style, developed by Nemours Jean-Baptiste in 1955. The music was originally referred to as Kompa Direct. Compa or Kompa means beat or rhythm in Spanish.


Kompa is sang in Haitian Creole ("Kreyol").  Unlike other Caribbean styles, it has a slow tempo.  Kompa makes use of the tambour and conga extensively. The conga and tambour gives Kompa a uniquely Haitian flavor. Improvisation is a major component of the music.


Nemours Jean-Baptiste is considered the father of Kompa. He was originally a Latin and Jazz musician. He is said to have developed the music in 1955 and founded his first band Conjunto International. In 1956, Nemours changed the band name to Ensemble Aux Calebasses playing Kompa Direk, what would be the modern day genre. Ensemble Aux Calebasses would be later changed to Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste.

The orchestra consisted of a brass section of trumpet and trumbone, saxophone, rhythm section of accordion, piano(later), electric guitar, bass, drums, timbale, tom tom, cowbell, and conga. The melody would be played with all instruments in sync.

Webert Sicot, a rival band member in Jazz Des Jeunes
of Nemours, founded a competing style, Candance Rampa, some considered "more sophisticated" to Nemours's Kompa Direk.

By the 1960s, Kompa Direk became the most popular form of Haitian music, with numerous bands arriving on the scene: Tabou Combo, Bosa Combo, Shlue-Shlue,  and Les Fantaisistes. This was during the latter part of the 60's, post 1967. The latter bands were referred to as "Mini Djaz." A more guitar emphasis was placed in the music, as in Rock & Roll. The bands were smaller versions of Nemours's orchestra. The 1960s also brought about the exposure of Kompa to a wider audience and solidifying its status as one of the popular French Caribbean music style straight into the 70's.

By the 80's, we see the rise of antillean Zouk and Kassav. By mid 80s, Zouk was the most listened to music in Haiti. This spurred a new style of Kompa, called nouvel jenerasyon. Nouvel jenerasyon incorporated technology in Kompa, synthesizers, drum machines, computer software. It streamlined the Kompa band. Synthesizers replaced horns. Drum machines used in placed of conga, tom toms, and even the drummer. Some musician went further and got rid of all natural instruments, totally synthesized, called digital bands.  Less musicians were needed to produce and perform Kompa. The Kompa band was geared to more concert venues as opposed to being a dance hall party band.

Related Article: Zouk , Kizomba , Sega , Zydeco

Works Cited

Devis, Scheeler and Devis, Rene. Heritage Konpa. Compas (Konpas) the 54th Anniversary. retrieved December 03 2010.
Guibault, Joycelyne(1993). Zouk:World Music in the West Indies. University of Chicago Press: pp. 68-89. ISBN 0-226-31042-6

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