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Gage Averill and Kevin F. Mason

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 14 April 1948. His mother was Euchariste Charlemagne from Léogâne, and his father (whom he never knew) was Denis Barnave from Les Cayes. Often referred to as Manno Chalmay, using his Kreyòl (Creole) nickname and the Kreyòl orthography of his last name, he was raised by his aunt Antonia Charlemagne (his mother’s younger sister) in the neighborhood around the Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines (then called “Grand Rue”) in what he calls an “urban lakou,” a collective housing settlement of several families, such as would be common in the countryside. He attended Catholic elementary schools but listened to the music of laborers singing betiz, obscenely humorous lyrics intended to entertain, critique, or rebuke. Manno experienced firsthand the violence surrounding the overthrow of President Paul Magloire as a child in 1956 which led to the dictatorship of François Duvalier an event that shaped ...


Gordon Root

Manno Charlemagne was raised by his aunt in the working-class neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he was born. As a boy, he was surrounded by the desperate violence and destitution of these poverty-stricken districts. According to Charlemagne, some of his earliest boyhood memories include images of people fleeing bullets or making homemade bombs. The extreme poverty that he encountered from such an early age helped to cultivate his acute sensitivity to political injustice. Later, as an angaje (politically engaged) musician, this awareness became his trademark and his ticket to success both in music and in politics.

Charlemagne began singing and playing guitar at the age of sixteen. In 1968 he formed his first band, a Mini-Jazz group called Les Remarquables. His second group, Les Trovères, provided the artist with his first involvement in twoubadou music It was in this environment that Charlemagne first began to address the social ...