Joseph François André (nickname Joe Trouillot) is an internationally renowned Haitian-born singer, composer and musician (born 22 March 1922 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; died 29 October 2015 in Montreal, Quebec). Trouillot began his musical career at an early age, performing in many countries around the world. He died in Montreal in 2015, after a brilliant career as a musician.
Born on 22 March 1922, Joseph François André, better known as Joe Trouillot, was the youngest of three children. His father, of Cuban origin, was a rural doctor, and his mother a stay-at-home mom. He was introduced to music at a very early age by his maternal grandfather, who played the helicon, a brass wind instrument. Young Joe grew up in the shadow of his musician grandfather, who was a member of the Port-au-Prince Symphony Orchestra.
At the age of eight, Trouillot lost his mother following a miscarriage. This traumatic event led him to take refuge in music. In 1934, when he was just 12, he sang in public for the first time at the Saint-Gérard church in Port-au-Prince. He sang the song Minuit, Chrétiens. Lina Mathon Blanchet, a famous musician, was dazzled by the teenager's voice and offered him a three-year scholarship to attend the music school she directed.
Start of Career
At the time, a career as a musician was frowned upon in Haitian society. Nevertheless, his adoptive father was astonished to discover Joe Trouillot's singing talent and encouraged him to pursue it.
At the age of 22, Trouillot and a few friends founded an amateur orchestra called Les Gais Trouvères.
Shortly afterwards, his luck changed. He met the famous musician and bandleader Issa El Saieh, who invited him to join his eponymous group as lead singer, performing songs in Creole and French to Latin and jazz rhythms. For Trouillot, this was the real start of his career. In El Saieh's orchestra, he met talented musicians who would go on to become famous, including Ernest Lamy, Raoul Guillaume, Guy Durosier and Emmanuel Duroseau.
The public discovered and was captivated by an enthusiastic Joe Trouillot with his enchanting, voluptuous voice. He soon became one of the most popular singers of his generation.
The Issa El Saieh Orchestra, directed from 1953 by pianist Ernest Lamy, regularly played at the Casino International in Port-au-Prince. There, Trouillot met the owner, who hired him and other members of the orchestra to tour Europe in 1957. It was a dream come true for the young singer. He visited and sang in several clubs and casinos in London, Monaco, Paris, Barcelona and Milan. It was in Italy that he composed his famous song Oro basso, one of his most famous pieces.
On his return to Haiti, Trouillot returned to sing at the Casino International. The audience was there and begged for more. He took advantage of the opportunity to perform his favorite songs and to introduce his new compositions. Shortly afterwards, he landed a new contract to perform in the West Indies, this time in Nassau, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Croix, as well as Venezuela.
Career in North America
In 1961, his career as a professional singer took an important turn. At the invitation of Carlo D'Orléan-Juste, owner of Le Perchoir d'Haïti in Montreal, Joe Trouillot and Ernest Lamy moved to Quebec's great metropolis to pursue their musical careers. The Perchoir d'Haïti opened in 1957 and was a meeting place for the Haitian community settling in Montreal and fleeing the dictatorship of François Duvalier. The nightclub was an important cultural center for poets, intellectuals, writers and musicians of Haitian and Quebec origin.
Trouillot's reputation quickly spread beyond the province of Quebec. Many people of Haitian and American origin came from New York to listen to him and dance at the Perchoir d'Haïti to the rhythm of the orchestra conducted by Ernest Lamy. In the same years, Joe Trouillot also performed at the Café Copacabana, where he was singer and double bassist with the Cuba Stars quartet.
The 1960s were prosperous years for Joe Trouillot. He was invited to perform in several different media. He took part in the Télé-Métropole program Nous les amoureux, where he met the well-known singer Michel Louvain and the singer Monique Gaube. He also appeared on Radio-Canada's Sous le ciel des Antilles, accompanied by the Perchoir folk group from Haiti, who gave a magnificent performance for the show. Trouillot also performed in Toronto, as part of the Parade Latine program, broadcast live by CBC.
In the 1970s, Trouillot embarked on a triumphant tour of New York. He performed at Madison Square Garden and the Hotel Continental. Throughout the decade, he made several trips to New York. He sang in various clubs frequented by the Haitian community, building up his reputation.
In Montreal, Joe Trouillot passionately continued his career as a musician. He performed at Place des Arts, the Windsor Hotel and the Hôtel Queen-Élizabeth, among others. For eight years, he was house singer and master of ceremonies at Café Saint-Jacques, one of Montreal's busiest clubs. He was also the featured singer at the popular Do Ré Mi dance hall.
Joe Trouillot took to the stage for the last time at the age of 91, ending a career that spanned more than 6 decades and nearly 300 compositions. He died on 29 October 2015 at the age of 93. His whole life was devoted to music. Several members of the Haitian community were present at his funeral. In his coffin was a microphone, a symbol of his passion for music.