Liberia's dreams of becoming a teacher in Mexico were shattered by discrimination. But in Canada, she has become a teacher and mentor on her own terms.
An Interview with Montreal Hip Hop Sensation Vox Sambou
As we sat in the side alley of the Maison des Jeunes de la Côte-des-Neiges’s de Courtrai location Robints Paul, our interviewee, was invited to reflected on his personal story, music and community work and was asked to contemplate the various ways that these three elements intersect and relate to one another. Having been born and raised in Haiti, Robints eventually left the country with his 4 brothers in the early 1990s when Haiti was going through a period of intense political turmoil. Recounting his experiences as a child growing up in Haiti, to his journey to Montréal at the age of 19, Robints narrates his life story in a very open and candid way. He was very descriptive with his words, which made it quite easy for us listening to visually imagine the experiences that he went through as a young man. It was evident, throughout our entire interview, that he still has a lot of love and pride for the country of his birth and has used both his music and community work to give back to the Haitian community both here in Montréal and in Haiti. His work at the maison des jeunes has inspired him to open a youth centre in his hometown where he hopes youth can congregate and receive health care and educational services. As his hip hop artist persona Vox Sambou, Robints, also a member of the popular group Nomadic Massive here in Montréal, has used his music as a vehicle for self expression, and often imbeds his love for Haiti and his dedication to spreading social and politically conscious messages into the lyrics he authors. Seeing himself as an ambassador, Robints is entirely aware of the power and influence that his music can play in the community. One such example is his song Bato, which has helped to build awareness amongst Haitians still living in Haiti to the dangers of taking unauthorised boats to the American coastline.
Realising the gift of self confidence and self awareness that music and art can bring to a young person’s life, Robints has strongly encouraged the youth at the maison des jeunes, where he is the Director, to use the arts as a way to express, discover and remember who they are as individuals. For him, music has allowed him to be who he is without fear or shame. It has allowed him to express the pride and love he has for his country, heritage, language and culture; a lesson that he no doubt has learnt from Nomadic Massive. Being part of this multicultural group he has learnt about the diversity of the human experience and has realised that the issues and concerns that have informed his experiences and his country of birth, are similar to those of his peers and band mates who come from other countries. It is through art, and more specifically music, therefore, that he believes people can be given the freedom to be who they are, and the opportunity to discover how we as human beings are all, regardless of where we come from, connected in some way.
As an interviewer, I was touched not only by Robints’ personal story, but by the positive attitude that seems to inform his life. Never once painting himself out to be a victim, he has clearly transformed the more difficult experiences of his life into sources of inspiration that have motivated him to do whatever he can, either through music or through his community work, to give back to the Haitian community, both here in the city and back home. It was a truly inspiring experience to speak with him.
Interview with Robints Paul (aka Vox Sambou)
Conducted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Interviewer: Gracia Jalea
Videographer: Liz Miller
Written by: Gracia Jalea