BélO: Reggae musician regales

BélO is a reggae-esque performer who combines catchy, enjoyable music with a spiritual message of peace and love. He played at the Performing Arts Center on Nov. 16 and people of all ages and races came together to enjoy his performance.

His performance was delivered in what BélO calls “ragganga,” a combination of reggae, raggamuffin and rara (Haitian Carnival music).

A six-man band took to the stage with a drummer, a back-up singer, two guitar players, a bass player and a keyboard player. BélO’s opening strum, gently acoustic, was met with applause. His soft vocals had the crowd listening attentively as he sang to a reggae rhythm in his native Haitian Creole. As the song progressed, a mellow guitar solo infused jazz with reggae while the drums sped up. The band jammed near the end, which got the crowd moving in their seats.

By the third song, the audience was on its feet, dancing. People near the stage jumped around and waved the Haitian flag as BélO entertained with a mix of loud, passionate vocals and reggae rap lyrics set to a quick beat and started a chant that pumped up the crowd.

When the song ended, a girl in the crowd yelled, “I love you, BélO!” He said he loved her too, then switched gears into a slower melody. Smooth guitar leads accentuated the reggae with R&B. The slower rhythms continued for another song.

BélO picked the pace back up with a beat reminiscent of a Bob Marley ballad.

The crowd stood up and danced to rock ‘n’ roll meshed with reggae that continued to intensify as the drummer crashed the cymbals to an emotional BélO. He put his hand on his face and pointed to the sky, yelling “Lord, have mercy!” The guitar screamed in a solo that ended the song.

When BélO returned he played a song called “Lakou Trankil.” Even though it was a reggae song, the chorus was more like hip-hop. Check out YouTube for the video.

BélO performed one cover song, “I Want to Make You Sweat” by UB40. Most of the girls in the audience were dancing, especially those close to the stage.

BélO closed the night with an upbeat song. His vocals were like melodic talking that evolved into fast rapping. Afterward, he signed autographs for a long line of fans.

BélO said he was inspired to write songs about unity and love by the violence and instability in his home country, Haiti.

“You can’t fight violence with violence. You can only fight it with love.” BélO said.

He hopes he can bring peace to Haiti and the rest of the world – that’s how he plans to spend his future.

Before the BélO concert, a documentary played, detailing the violence in Haiti. It showed kidnapping as a major problem and allowed viewers to see the violence and squalor that pervades the country.

The Haitian theme was prevalent in an opening act by the Anakawona Dance Group, made up of six female dancers. They performed native Haitian dances in bright traditional attire. The act was mostly sidestepping dances performed to a keyboard and bongos.