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Born in Port Au Prince, Haiti, Georges Vilson grew up in a family which valued Haitian culture and its musical traditions. His mother ignited his passion by immersing him in a magical world of music, replete with Creole lullabies, traditional, folk, classical and religious hymns. Early on, she recognized his musical gift and nurtured his vocal and musical talents. At the tender age of 7, he was asked to a perform a Christmas standard, Gloria In Excelsis Deo, at a local radio station. He later joined a choir Etwal Karayib, conducted by his older brother Jean Vilson who exposed young Georges to a full repertoire of Haitian folk and Vodou songs as well as traditional dances. It is in this environment that he learned to play the Conga drums and dance to Haiti's ancestral rhythms: kongo, petwo, ibo, yanvalou, djoumba, mayi and many more. Georges’ involvement with the choir introduced him to other likeminded choirs such as the Club Lanbi in Carrefour. Performing and promoting Haitian folk and Vodou rituals was not without risks under Papa Doc Duvalier’s oppressive regime. Most youth group engaged in raising awareness and appreciation for traditional music were considered subversives and accused of having communist allegiances. Sadly, many young people were killed or were forced to leave the country for Europe and North America under these circumstances.
When Georges migrated to the US in the late 70’s, his friends, impressed with his powerful and expressive voice, encouraged him to perform for a larger audience. The critical acclaim which followed his musical appearances secured for Georges a very prestigious honor. In 1985, he was chosen, to represent Haiti at the 12th Annual Youth Festival in Moscow, USSR. His interpretation of Haiti's musical traditions to an international audience was a life altering experience for Georges. He returned home with the resolve that music would play a central role in his life.
He pursued his dream by matriculating at the City College of New York’s prestigious Music Performance Program, where he earned a BFA in music performance. He continued to follow his avocation by touring with musicians of diverse musical styles. Eager to focus once again on Haitian music, Georges co-founded Pyebèf, a band which explored and deepened the public's appreciation for music strongly rooted in African and Caribbean traditions. Pyebèf burst into the Haitian musical scene with both popular and critical acclaim, performing Rasin, Konpa-Rasin and Soukous. The band which regularly toured major Haitian enclaves in Massachusetts, Florida and New York, subsequently dissolved.
Georges went on to join the Board of Education of New York where he taught choral music, and directed steel bands as well as more traditional ones. He then enrolled at Brooklyn College of New York and earned a Master’s Degree in Education. Today, after 25 years of classroom experience, a retired Georges Vilson continues to work with various artists living here and in Haiti.
In Haiti he also conducts workshops on choral music techniques, and teaches private classes.
Georges’ love and passion for traditional Haitian music has never faltered. For over 10 years, he has painstakingly collected Vodou songs and lyrics offered by friends and acquaintances. While archiving scores of recordings, it became apparent to him that one of the critical elements needed for musical conservation was missing. In spite of the hundreds if not thousands of recorded pieces of Vodou and other traditional rhythms, books of scores or musical notations memorializing Haiti’s music for posterity were exceedingly rare. George’s unswerving desire to preserve Haiti’s musical traditions, compelled him to undertake this most unique and ambitious project. He is currently the Executive Director of the Kandelab Foundation Inc., a non-profit entity whose mission is to record and preserve Haiti’s oral traditions.
By combining his formal musical training with his deep understanding of Haiti’s traditional music in all its nuances, Georges Vilson is poised to offer a lasting gift to Haiti, an offering to the ancestors to whom he gives all honors.
Works already published by author:
KANDELAB, Volume 1, 101 Notated Haitian Folk and Vodou Songs.(+ CD)
KANDELAB, Volume 2, 102 Notated Haitian Folk and Vodou Songs.(+ CD)
CD Haiti In a Classical Mood, a classical arrangement of Vodou pieces taken from the
KANDELAB collection and arranged for Philharmonic Orchestra
CD Banbòch Anba Tonèl, a collection of popular Haitian songs arraged in a Twoubadou style
CD Pyèbèf, a collection of original songs arranged for Haitian Dance Hall style..