The people of St.Lucia are remarkable!! Equally comfortable in the English and Creole cultures due to our dual heritage. And we listen to everrrryyything! From rock to R’n’B to country to soca, afrobeats, kuduro, zouk, kompas, everything! Given the opportunity, there are a couple of people I just had to interview within the creole music family. The band 5LAN which create music in the Kompas genre is one of them. Their song ‘Denye Fwa’ is my jam! And I love the collaboration ‘Ill yayad’ with Carimi. When a 5LAN track comes on, I’ve heard the men say ‘Look 5LAN is on, time to give her the gouyad!’ There is something different about 5LAN’s kompas sound. I wanted to find out more about this band. So here I am in New York on a snowy Saturday afternoon talking to DJ 5etwal of 5LAN about kompas, music and the industry.
Did you always want to be a musician? Actually, no. When I was a kid, I wanted to do engineering cause as you can see I am a little bit shy [laughter]. Have you always been that shy? Yes.. I have…
So how do you perform on stage? Well when I drink, I am less shy. [laughter].. just being honest.
How did you move from wanting to be an engineer to being part of 5LAN? I’d say it is the music itself that paved my destiny. I love music so much, right after high school… every week I used to party with a group of friends. One person told me, ‘Hey you party every weekend, why don’t you make money out of it as well?’ From then, I bought my equipment, started mixing and here I am now. My DJ name is DJ 5etwal. But that was too long for my friends. Three syllables, so they just shortened it to 5LAN. Then I created the 5LAN band and here we are.
How long have you been in the music industry? I have been doing this for 15 years and the band has been going for 7 years. I wanted to bring something different whilst still keeping the same formula and the same direction.
How many of you are there in the band? There are six of us. We have grown from three. I added the singer Oswald to the band, Carlo Vieux from Carimi and Tchoukito from X-tassy plays with us.
If you had to describe what Kompas music is to my audience, how would you describe it? I would say Kompas is a lower type of merengue coming from Haiti.
I sometimes get confused between Zouk and Kompas. What to you is the difference between the two? Zouk is a softer part. Kompas is more hardcore. The topics in Zouk mostly about love. Content in Kompas is more diverse.
What makes Kompas so special? Well Haiti is special.
Well, what makes Haiti special? Haiti is a pearl even though all the negativity the country has suffered, it is still shining. The country is beautiful itself. There are places in Haiti you would dream to visit. It is a gold mine in a sense. The tourists who come can see its beauty.
What makes your sound in Kompas so different? Cause I have been to parties and when a 5LAN tune comes on, all of a sudden, the dance floor is packed. 5LAN is different because of the sound that we use. We found a formula to incorporate Zouk into Kompas without sounding too much Kompas or too much Zouk so we are right in the middle.
But what makes 5LAN 5LAN? You want me to tell you all of my secrets huh? [laughter] Well I am sitting here and I tend to get most of the credit but I have a lot of people working in the background. My hitmaker, my producer. He is the one who collabs with me and help make beautiful sounds. It’s a team effort. We started a movement called the gouyad movement.. Yesss I’ve heard about this.. what is the gouyad movement? Gouyad music is a slower Kompas, borderline Zouk that makes the people dance even more. Typically when you go to a Kompas concert, you just enjoy the show. But 5LAN? We make the people dance. That’s part of our focus.
Have you found some resistance with reference to 5LAN and it’s development? Cause I listen to your music and I hear sometimes you say ‘ Yo ka pale 5LAN mal..ah shut up!!’ Is that just banter or is something you have experienced? Experience it yes. When you are different, you are subject to scrutiny. People will talk nonsense about you because you are different. That’s the beauty of 5LAN. We cater for it. We sound different and that bothers other people. We’re on a different path.
Are there places in the world where Kompas is popular? It is very popular in France and French governed islands like Martinique and Guadeloupe, they love kompas. Kompas is a foreign product. And when there is a foreign product that is good and is different they will accept it more. And they love the feeling of true live music. 5LAN has fans in Canada, New York, Boston, Paris. We have had our greatest concert in Montreal/ Canada.
What has kept you guys popular for long? I would say the fans. The fans are always growing. I would also say staying positive and remaining creative. We have a different perspective and it is working for us. For example, other bands may drop albums but we drop singles on a regular basis.
In your career now what have you been most proud of? That’s a tough question. I’d say I’m proud of our fans. Even though people talk nonsense about the band , they still follow us and support us wherever we go. That means a lot to us and drives us to do more. The love and affection we get out of them is out of this world.
I know you have done collaborations with Carimi, New Look, T-Vice. Is there anyone else you would like to work with? I would like to work with anyone who is doing positive. Allan Cave is on my wish list. One of the greatest singers in Haiti. Harmonik, just to name a few.
Are there any new single artists up and coming in Kompas? Here’s the reality here. In Kompas, in order to really make it in the industry, you need a band to back you up. It has been proven. Single artists in Kompas do not really last. A single artist can’t go and perform on play backs and gain recognition for us. You need to have an actual live feeling and performance for people to give you the credit you deserve. We as an audience don’t really accept playback. And if you are a single artist and do not have a band backing you up, it is a really tough business. The income or money that you really make in Kompas is in the live shows, not production. It has always been that way. In a Zouk club you can have playback and people will go crazy. Not for Kompas. 5LAN is different cause we have found a way to merge the playback with the live music.
Would you ever do any music outside of Kompas? Oh yes I might do Afrobeats.
What’s next for 5LAN? You never know. We started as three. Now we are six. We might get larger. The industry is going in a certain direction. Kompas and Zouk lovers like the more live music so we may have to follow that but still keep our formula. As a band owner and decision maker, I have to study the music and industry to see what’s happening, what people like and make decisions accordingly and make all the right moves.
Do you think you are making all the right moves now? Um yes. 5LAN is here now because of all the hard work we have put into it. Our fan base is growing. I am not doubting myself.
When someone comes to your concert what do we expect? Dance! Dance. Not to sit around. You will hear some nice grooves and solos. Make your hips move.
DJ 5etwal. This easy going, shy, very intelligent guy on the pulse of Kompas. I see now why 5LAN is such a force to be reckoned with. It was an honour getting to hear about kompas and learn more about the music from him. I get to interview two other members of 5LAN, Oswald and Tchoukito and they also have the same passion for kompas and music. Stay tuned for their perspectives of kompas and 5LAN!
For more information 5LAN, please visit sase5LAN and DJ5Etwal on instagram and twitter and soundcloud. 5LAN will be playing in Paris on the 25th of February. All images not taken by ilovecarnivall were used with the authorisation of 5LAN.