Michael Brun grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As a kid, he remembers the pulsing and intoxicating rhythms that washed over the neighborhood every weekend in the form of rara bands--musicians beating drums, blowing handmade horns, clapping and singing through the streets.
“You hear it coming over the horizon. It’s just really contagious,” he said.
Brun, a popular international Electronic Dance Music (EDM) producer and DJ, said the music of Haiti anchors and inspires him. He blends the traditional sounds of Haitian music—konpa, rara, racine with the booming bass and beats of EDM in his songs “Wherever I Go” and “Gaya.”
“My love of Haiti has always been my driving factor for my music,” said the now Miami-based DJ. “It took me a while to get to how I want to represent the sound because the history of Haitian music is so rich and incredible.”
He was around 15 years old when he discovered EDM though a friend in Haiti who learned about it from older siblings attending college in the U.S. Brun started producing and playing around with the genre on his computer. His curiosity grew into a passionate hobby that he would continue to tinker with into his college years.
Brun was a pre-med sophomore at Davidson College in North Carolina when he started to get the attention of major record labels.
Patrick Brun, Michael’s dad, didn’t want his son to give up medicine, but he also didn’t want to be the reason Michael didn’t pursue music.
“He wanted to be a doctor to help children in Haiti,” said Patrick, a veteran of the Haitian music scene who was recently in Miami to watch his son perform during Miami Music Week. “But he said that through his music he can also help.”
In the 80’s Patrick was part of a popular Haitian band called Skandal, but he said that he gave up music professionally after becoming a dad because of family responsibilities.
“When Michael was born I still had the studio at my house. He was in my lap, I was still producing and one day I decided 'that’s it,” he said. “That was a different time.”
Patrick said when he and Michael’s mom agreed to let him leave college to pursue music full-time, he wanted his son “to always remember where he comes from.”
— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) March 24, 2017
When Michael Brun travels the world touring and working with other artists, he always carries the Haitian flag with him. In many ways he has become an unofficial ambassador for his home country.
“My parents always told me to be proud of being Haitian because it’s a big part of my identity and it’s a strength,” said Brun.
Brun produced “Wherever I Go,” last year with music students from the Audio Institute, a school in Jacmel, Haiti that offers full scholarships for students to pursue music production. His latest single “Gaya,” the Creole word for healing, is an ode to Haitian music, featuring Haitian artists and musicians.
Through his label, Kid Coconut, it’s not uncommon for Brun to take his artists to Haiti.
“I’m from the UK. I had absolutely no education or information on Haiti as a country or as a culture,” said EDM artist Eden Prince, who is signed to Brun’s label.
Last year, Eden Prince traveled to Haiti with Brun and though he doesn’t speak Creole, he said the universal language of music spoke to him through distinct Haitian sounds he had never experienced before.
“I felt like I came back from Haiti with a kind of new inspiration, and it definitely had an influence on the music I was making,” said Eden Prince.
Brun said he plans to continue to expose different audiences to Haitian culture through his music and to also uplift Haitian artists in Haiti.
“I really believe Haiti is magic," said Brun. “And I love being able to say I’m Haitian.”