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BélO brings message of peace and humility to Tampa Bay

In 2006, one of Haiti’s biggest music stars, BélO, won Radio France International’s Decouvertes – or best new artist – award. The recognition the award amassed enabled him to perform in Africa, Canada and Europe. Tonight, he’s coming to Tampa to sing and play his guitar on stage at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s Ferguson Hall.

Murat Jean Belony, BélO’s real name, won the award for his 2005 debut album Lakou Trankil, which means quiet courtyard. Three songs from this album are on his MySpace page at

The lyrics featured in his socially conscious album speak about political problems, violence and more, while persuading the people of Haiti to work as one.

One can see that he is heavily influenced by Bob Marley, as he openly acknowledges. Other cited influences include Tracy Chapman and Buju Banton.

The 28-year-old is more than just an activist musician. He is more than just a singer and songwriter. He is a composer who concocts what he calls “ragganga,” which is a blend of reggae, raggamuffin and rara. Some of his songs also have hints of R&B and jazz.

Reggae, the most popular of the three, is a combination of ska and rocksteady. Its pinnacle was in the ’70s and ’80s. Raggamuffin, or ragga, is slightly different from reggae in that it is more electronic. It is also known as dancehall reggae.

Rara is completely Haitian in origin. Traditionally, it was played in the streets during Easter Week, but it commemorates the African ancestry of Haiti. The music is centered around a vaksen, a bamboo trumpet that is blown into while rhythmically hit with a stick. There are usually many other instruments that join in with the vaksen.

Not only is the music a mix, so is the language in which he sings. The lyrics are in Haitian Creole, which is French-based with influences from many other regions.

When BélO takes the stage tonight, he will either do a solo acoustic act or he will have a full band. He may play songs from his new album, which he has been recording in Miami. Among those is “Haiti Leve.”

The performance begins at 8 p.m., with a reception with food, drinks and entertainment starting at 7 p.m. Along with the refreshments, the opening act will be the Anakawona Dance Group, whose aim is to express the Haitian culture through dance, music and choreography.

If you want to be as big as an elephant, Make yourself small as a mouse,If you want to rule Lakou,You have to obey,If you want to see things change,You’ve got to show that you’re willing.­- BélO