Boukman Eksperyans was founded in 1978 by Theodore “Lolo” Beaubrun and his sister Marjorie ‘Nola’ Beabrun and Daniel ‘Dadi’ Beaubrun and Mimerose Beaubrun and members of various groups who launched the mizik rasin revolution in Haiti in the late 1970s. One of these groups was led by Fanfan Alexis, and included the future musicians of such groups as Group Sa, Foula, and Rara Machine. Beaubrun’s father was a comedian and was often referred to as the Bill Cosby of Haiti.Theodore Beaubrun (Languichatte Debordus) While on tour in the United States, he brought back a James Brown LP which left a lasting impression on young Lolo. After his parents divorced, he followed his mother to Brooklyn, New York. In the United States, he studied two years of Business Administration.
Lolo returned to Haiti in 1978, and there were bands playing music known as minidjaz. To Lolo, they seemed to pay no attention to song lyrics that dealt with reality. They were even accused of standing too close to the Duvaliers. When Lolo and Mimrose began to seek their musical goals, they felt a strong desire to incorporate the African element in Haiti’s culture into their music. They decided to combine roots music with vodou religious and musical traditions.
Lolo’s grandfather was deeply involved in vodou, but his parents never made this available to him. Lolo and Mimrose entered their first vodou lakou-s, a Haitian spiritual community, where they met musicians and singers. They also got their first real glance at the African culture of Haiti in the form it was handed down from members of various tribes. They founded a group to study vodou music, giving it the name of Moun Ife (“People of the Abode of the Deities”). Lolo stated that Bob Marley, another important musical inspiration, made him think. When he heard the Jamaican legend in 1976, he thought he could create something similar in Haiti with vodou. Lolo and Mimerose began to perform as a live act in the 1980s.
The traditional roots instruments were replaced by electric instruments, like the bass guitar and two guitars played by members Eddy François and Daniel ‘Daby’ Beaubrun, Lolo’s brother and the band’s chief arranger. In 1985, the group changed their name to “Boukman Eksperyans”, the name of Fan Fan Alexis‘s former band, of which Lolo was the lead singer. The name was a tribute to the Jamaican born slave leader Boukman Dutty, who launched the Haitian slave rebellion in August 1791. “Eksperyans” was in honor of the “high priest of rock music“, Jimi Hendrix. Since the beginning, starting with the first encounters made by the Beaubruns with deep African roots, Boukman Eksperyans has remained steadfastly linked to the Ginen (“Guinea“) vodou line. The band calls it vodou adjae after a vodou ceremonial dance. This was also the title of their first album, released in 1991.
Boukman Eksperyans first became famous in 1990 when they presented their song “Ke’m Pa Sote” at the Carnival celebration in Port-au-Prince. The song included the refrain “My heart doesn’t leap, I’m not afraid”. This song was a protest against the living conditions under the post-Duvalier interim military government of General Prosper Avril. After a young girl was shot dead by a soldier, this song became an out-and-out battle hymn admonishing the government. The band continued to write and perform rebellious songs. The band members were never directly threatened, but were advised ‘never go out at night’. When the military junta overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, the band decided to leave the country for their own safety.
Just before the second coup d’état against Aristide in 2004, Lolo joined with many others in protesting the abuses at the very least condoned by the President. In the years following, Boukman Eksperyans was not associated with any political party. Their songs depicted the reality of Haiti as they saw it.