Mayer Morissette: From R & B to Zouk — In Creole — at NYC’s Nirvana

Mayer Morissette crooned in French, English, and Creole with David Shakespeare on guitar.

Zouk is a style of rhythmic music originating from the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti, St. Lucia, and Dominica.  Zouk means “party” in Haitian Creole. It feels like a party whenever it is played.

In Africa, Zouk music is popular in French-speaking countries such as those in West Africa.  In Europe it is particularly popular in France, and in North America can be heard often in Quebec.

Mayer vocalists include R'Kardo  St'von, and sisters Renee and Rebecca Prosper.
Mayer vocalists include R’Kardo St’von, and sisters Renee and Rebecca Prosper.

In addition to exception music, the food was extraordinary.  Nirvana is an Indian restaurant and lounge.  Tandori items cooked in a clay oven were surprisingly delicious and the crowd gobbled up appetizers as fast as they could be delivered.

Mayer is originally from the small Caribbean Island I know well – Haiti.  He was raised in that beautiful nation’s most sophisticated ville, Pétionville.  He moved to the U.S. when he was 14 years old.

As a young aspiring artist from Haiti, Mayer was only nine when he began to fantasize about becoming a star. Though many tried to tell him that he wouldn’t make it very far, and that he was wasting his time, Mayer told me that he never stopped dreaming.

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Bass guitarist Shakespeare, guitarist Eli, keyboardist Ado and drummer Manny.

Despite the discouraging advice he received, Mayer continued to strive to establish himself as an accomplished artist. When people realized how talented he really was, they then tried to tell him what to sing and how to sing it.

What they failed to realize is how stubborn he is.  He turned those words of discouragement into food for encouragement.

“My musical style doesn’t follow any rules or industry status quo. It doesn’t go through countless round tables of approvals and disapprovals. It’s just a reflection of me and the creative place I have been in for the past nineteen years,” Mayer explained.

Mayer’s music is real and honest – it comes from his heart and soul.  “I don’t just sing music, I live it.  My music has to appropriately suit me.  My songs are sung in the hope that you can find a place somewhere within the notes that touches you somehow,” Mayer said.

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Mayer’s back-up band included David Shakespeare on bass guitar, Eli on guitar, Ado Coker on keyboard, and the sensational percussionist, Manny on drums.  Female background vocalists include the talented sisters Renee and Rebecca Prosper, and male background vocalist, R’Kardo St’von.

Mayer is represented by the efficient and exuberant Maggy Metayer of Artist Development AVP, M2M Productions, a division of Ekla Records.

Mayer’s outstanding team includes the stupendous bass guitarist Shakespeare, the exciting guitarist Eli, the awesome, amazing and entertaining Keyboardist and Maestro Ado and the magnificent drummer Manny.

This team was put together by Mayer and Ado who met each other at BB King NYC on Times Square for Martinique Day Fest 2005. They have since remained friends and have always respected and appreciated each other’s musical talent.

At that event, Mayer performed with several Antillean superstars such as Princess Lover, Jocelyne Labylle, and a duet with Christiane Valejo.

Mayer was enrolled in a mentoring program at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He also performed at Carnegie Hall as a member of the group “Soul Shakers” covering songs from the 50’s and 60’s.

“My most important work,” Mayer told me, “is entitled Dance With My Mother. This song, a remake of Luther Vandross’ Dance With My Father. It is a tribute to his mom and love of his life, Marie Jocelyne Morissette, who tragically passed away in 2003.

This anthem, so near and dear to his heart, puts him on the map as a talented and respected vocalist.  It brought tears to my eyes.

Although Nirvana doesn’t serve Haitian beer such as Prestige, I found their American-Indian beer 1947 – named after India’s year of independence – to be wonderful.  It is brewed in Pennsylvania – and honestly tastes better than Prestige.

“I believe that performers have an obligation to be connected to the community,” Mayer told me.  His audience was comprised of both Haitian-Americans and rank-and-file New Yorkers.

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Guitarist David Shakespeare with Mayer Morissette.

Mayer hopes to perform a benefit concert for the organization I founded, Orphans International Worldwide, specifically to benefit our project in Jacmel, Haiti.  He will perform next at Nirvana, back by popular demand, on December 11.  I will be there – come join me!

The concert was filmed for New York’s TV program, Island Insider TV.

I met Mayer years ago through Facebook when he expressed interest in my work with orphaned children in his native Haiti.  He then relocated to Miami, but now that he is back we can jam for the kids!

Mayer Morissette with his friend Jim Luce  at Nirvana in New York City.
Mayer Morissette with his friend Jim Luce at Nirvana in New York City.

I was enormously pleased with the wonderful food and staff of Nirvana.  It is located at 346 Lexington between 39th & 40th Streets in New York City.  John Lee and I will be reviewing the restaurant itself shortly.  I would be happy to forward any e-mail for Mayer sent to jim@jimluce.com.

Originally published in The Daily Kos, Novermber 26, 2009.

The Luce Index™
99 –
Mayer Morissette

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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