Since 2017, Haitian DJ-producer Michael Brun has been hosting Bayo concerts to highlight artist from his home country and the Caribbean, and at the tour’s stop at New York’s Pier 17 on Saturday night, he brought some famous friends: J Balvin — with whom he wrote the 2018 World Cup theme song “Positivo” — Wyclef Jean and even the long-running Haitian group Boukman Eksperyans.
The 2022 installment of Bayo — which means, “to give” in Creole and concluded with the New York show — certainly took audiences on a sonic journey to Brun’s home country. The concert took place just a few days after Haitian Flag Day, which is a symbol of liberation and freedom throughout the Caribbean, and Brun crafted a setlist of both well-known American hits and Caribbean classics for the New York audience: For example, the crowd roared when he played Bajan heroine Rihanna’s song “Work,” and grew even more ecstatic as the instrumental backing was swapped for a classic Kompa beat.
Over the years Brun also has collaborated with Ed Sheeran, Mr. Eazi, and Arcade Fire, and he’s brought a genuine touch of Haiti to those artists while simultaneously elevating the stature of the country’s music across the globe. During the shows, he often leaves his elevated DJ booth area and heads out into the audience — what he might lack in pyro and other special effects is more than compensated in stage presence, and his special guests on Saturday only added to it.
Reggaeton superstar J Balvin joined Brun on stage to perform his global smash, “Mi Gente,” as well as “Positivo.” Caribbean legends Boukman Eksperyans joined him onstage as well, as did Wyclef Jean, who performed a string of hits, including the Fugees’ classic “Killing Me Softly” and “911,” his duet with Mary J. Blige. At the close of his set, he bounded into the crowd as a band of traditional Haitian musicians followed him, but rather than crowding him, the audience gave him a very familial and respectful space, allowing Wyclef to dance in the crowd without security. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate way to close out Bayo 2022.