Pauline Jean is firmly rooted in Haitian and American cultures and traditions. She did not know she would end up as an emerging jazz great until she discovered where her passions truly lay: mixing creole and jazz to create astounding songs of her own that are an incredible addition to the music world. Her debut album, A Musical Offering, appeared in 2009 and she is now preparing for the launch of her second offering, Nwayo, later this year. She draws inspiration from her heritage, spirituality and belief in the overall good of humanity. She expressed these sentiments in an exclusive interview with Kreol Magazine during the prestigious Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival in Haiti in early 2016.
The deeply soulful and melodious voice of Haitian-American singer Pauline Jean delights audiences at home and abroad, perfectly capturing her creole background and love of classic jazz music with tunes and arrangements of her own creation. She recently performed at the 2016 Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, where she wowed the crowds, and is about to release her second album, Nwayo.
A scrape with law
It wasn’t always this way, nor was it even about music. Indeed, as she was growing up, hers had never been a household full of jazz or any other kind of music. Instead, for Pauline, a career in law was more on her mind, and certainly nothing to do with the glittering world of entertainment. So what happened to keep her out of the courtroom and dramatically change her trajectory?
She took some music classes – jazz in particular – and, as she says, “I fell in love with the genre and then I just started to immerse myself in it. From there, there was no going back. I feel like it kind of like was always there.” Pauline elaborates on music and her eventual attraction to it as a performer, “You don’t really go into it, it kind of like chooses you… music has just always been a part of me.”
Pauline admits that she relies heavily on her cultural background as a primary source of inspiration along with her church and overall spirituality. In particular the history of people, including her own ancestors and their struggle to be free from slavery. All these experiences of the current and the past percolate in her and, “Come out in my music”, she says.
She’s especially proud of her second album, Nwayo,which is due out in May, and describes it as, “A little bit more special”, It contains more of her own music (lyrics and compositions) and arrangements than the first, A Musical Offering (released in 2009). With, Nwayo, jazz fans can enjoy the velvety voice of this unique singer who holds a degree in music, as she makes her way through eight sublime tracks.
So far, as her career emerges into the spotlight, Pauline has travelled to perform in the Caribbean, as well as Russia, several countries in Europe and even the Middle East (Israel and Lebanon). Among the notables she has either performed and collaborated with are such stars as Wyclef Jean, Denis Matsuev, the Ivanov Brothers and Emeline Michel.
Haiti, however, is always a firm favourite. “When I perform in Haiti, I’m also performing with some of my peers,” she says, “so it’s really nice to come together and enjoy music with your own people and to actually be yourself and just sing. There’s something special here.”
Spirituality and equality
Respect for all people is something Pauline would like to see a lot more of, and she admits she gets angry when she sees injustice towards others. “One of my pet peeves is disrespect. I think it’s horrible when someone disrespects other people. People should be treated equally and justly,” she demands.
What does Pauline like to do when she’s not writing or recording? Fitness and keeping in great shape is one of her main priorities. “I like to work out; I like to run,” as she details her physical activity passions. She also likes to spread her gift of music, with something she’s been doing since a child: regularly performing free of charge for the elderly at various nursing homes – people who she says, “(They) are near and dear to my heart. They can’t go out to see performances, so I bring the performances to them.”
She is also deeply introspective. “For relaxation, I try to read, I try to be spiritual, pray, be meditative – it keeps you grounded. Running for me is very therapeutic; I could run and run and run – give me some good sneakers and I’m running. But while I run I meditate and I pray, so I don’t even think about the running but being in communion with God.”