Kamarad Bonjou Pa Zanmi: Understanding RAM’s “Se Pa Sa’w Te Di”

I’ve been obsessed lately with RAM’s 2014 Kanaval so I thought I’d break it down a bit, by examining a few lyrics. In true RAM fashion, this song celebrates Haitian history, culture, and vodou. It combines 3 traditional vodou songs to make a terrific social commentary.

"Papa Loko ou se van pouse n’ ale. Nou se papiyon n’a pote nouvèl ba yo. Loko tout sa ki fè nou byen na wè yo. Loko tout sa ki fè nou mal, na wè yo."
Papa Loko was the first Houngan. He is the father of all Houngans and Mambos, and highly respected by all. It is often said that Loko is the wind, or like the wind. Thus he is able to hear anything he so desires. He is associated with the beautiful butterfly and no secret is unknown to him. In this song, the singer is also asking Papa Loko for help distinguishing between those who wish her well and those who don’t.
"Kouzen se pa sa’w te di mwen. Ou te di m’ konsa jou’w plase avè m’, ou ap marye avè mwen. Nan pwen wòb nan pwen jipon. Granmesi, yon pye mango ki te gen anba a ki sove lavi mwen.
This song is about disappointment. Here, the singer’s cousin with whom she was living, and whom had promised to marry her has not delivered on his promise. Luckily the singer has found a mango tree that has helped her provide for herself.
"Chwal mwen sele nan gran chimen, bonjou sese bonjou kanmarad. Kanmarad bonjou pa zanmi ey. Ki mele’m avè yo."
In rural areas, many families live in a lakou. This lakou borders a gran chimen or a main road. Here the singer’s horse is on the road, ready to go. Someone greets them but they know that this person does not wish them well.

It is important to note the backstory of this song: Richard A. Morse (the lead singer of RAM), is the cousin of Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly. Richard used to be an advisor to the president. However, after noticing the amount of corruption he realized that Martelly was not interested in the good of the country but rather his own personal wealth. Richard became disillusioned and quit. So this song is not only about his disappointment in his cousin, but also realizing you cannot trust everyone. If anyone has alternative theories or explanations, I’d love to hear them.

 **also, during the keyboard & rara breakdowns, me = ALL THE GOUYAD! The ancestors take over ya’ll! M’ sanlè demonte ren mwen! Ya’ll don’t even know!**

Edit: Richard (@RAMHaiti) tweeted me a correction: Kouzen/Cousin, above, is a reference for Kouzen Zaka, the lwa associated with agriculture in Haitian vodou.