Multifaceted Artist whose sounds and rhythmic dance movements are the results of
Traditional Racine Vodou, infused with Soul, Jazz and African Rhythms from Haiti.
With a dancer’s grace, Riva Nyri Précil moves between Haiti’s spiritual and artistic traditions and a striking, worldly perspective forged in Brooklyn. Born in New York but raised on Haiti, her visual and sonic world is profoundly hybrid and utterly beautiful.
Précil’s works springs from racine, a contemporary iteration of the vodou songs, rituals, drumming, and movement designed to engage the spirit world to bring healing or ward off negative events and energies. Racine incorporated rock; with her band Bohio Music, Percil folds additional elements into racine: vocal jazz, soul, touches of R&B.
“Whether you speak Creole or not or practice vodou or not, it’s all a part of the aesthetics of Haiti; it’s inside of the traditions,” Précil told the Brooklyn Reader in a recent interview. “And I love everything about Haiti’s traditions– the language, the dance and the music. They have the most raw beauty you’ll ever experience.”
Précil translates this raw beauty on albums like Perle de Culture into music that’s light, complex, and earthy. Working closely with Haitian-heritage guitarist and renaissance man, Monvelyno, Précil crafts elegant originals. “Legba,” a central spirit in vodou, the great opener of doors, starts with a spare dialog between Précil’s voice and drums, then broadens into a full jazz quartet. Other tracks dive straight into funky acoustic grooves (“Sebon”) and breathtaking polyrhythms (“Ti Zandò”).
Her songs have a powerful presence, no matter what the arrangement or context. A seasoned performer at intimate clubs and on festival stages, Précil brings her work to life for audiences in a variety of formats, from a simple acoustic trio (voice, guitar, Haitian drums), to an expanded electric band, sometimes including a full brass section and additional dancers.
Music is only one facet of Précil’s creative world. She dances and teaches Haitian folkloric dance. She designs stunning jewelry. She works as a model. She’s written a fanciful children’s book in Creole, Haiti’s widely spoken but often dismissed language, titled Anaelle ak la Sirèn (Anaelle and the Mermaid). “Most children’s books in Haiti are translated,” reflects Précil. “I wanted Haitian children to see themselves, their culture and language, on the page and at the center of the story.”
One vision informs all she does, however, no matter what the audience or medium. “A lot of people unfortunately have people around them that encourage negative stereotypes against other cultures and even against their own culture,” says Précil. “My vision is to bring the Haitian culture into the light; to re-introduce it to the international community and also the Haitian community.”