From Sufi chants and Shamanic drums to Brian Wilson’s attempts to write a “teenage hymn to God” and the mass communion of raves, music, magic and mysticism are inextricably bound together. That connection, the divine spark that breathes life into chords, notes and melodies and both transports and transforms the listener is at the heart of The Living Gods of Haiti’s music, a powerful fusion of esoteric imagery and ethereal electronic music.
Originally conceived as a spoken word project by singer, poet and visual artist Rebekah Dobbins, the word became flesh when Rebekah, then working in LA, reached out to former collaborator, Parisian producer Marc Collin (Nouvelle Vague, Yasmine Hamdan). Communicating by email the two began to explore the new world Rebekah had sketched out, not writing songs at first but just piecing together textures, sounds and ideas, building a new sonic universe from these disparate elements.
“We went to and fro for a long while, trying new things. It was a fragmented, drawn out process that probably took over a year,” explains Rebekah. “For a long time the results were not really songs so much as they were experiments.”
By the time Rebekah finally made it back to Marc’s studio in Paris the world the two had set out to create had taken on a life all of its own. Taking their name from Maya Deren’s documentary film on ritual dance and voodoo, ‘Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti’, the duo set out to create an all encompassing aesthetic, one that drew as much from the writings of EE Cummings, Aleister Crowley or the Zoroastrian Avesta as it did from the music of Dead Can Dance, David Bowie or the Cocteau Twins.
Released in late 2015 their debut, hailed by Metro as "one for Tricky and Bat For Lashes fans" and by Clash for its "darkly enticing electronics", opened the doors of perception as more songs began to take quickly shape in the studio. Music filled with sensual and dreamlike textures that could be described as dark, but may be better called wild, unfettered and suffused with occult potential. Music that drew both directly and unconsciously upon Rebekah’s background, her half-Syrian parentage and childhood growing up on the windswept Celtic fringe of England’s south west, where a reminder of the country’s eerie past is rarely more than a field away.
Whilst Rebekah’s otherworldly songs and Marc’s passion for analogue synths and tribal percussion already has Electronica producers and Goth misfits rubbing shoulder pads with Gnostics and pagans alike, The Living Gods of Haiti has become more than just a vehicle for their music. Extending beyond the music the band’s distinctive style, visual imagery and music videos, all directed by Rebekah, act as seductive invitations to their world, triumphant celebrations of female sexuality and the breaking of taboos. Even the band’s few live performances have side-stepped the everyday to embrace the essence of magick. For their debut live show, at St. Leonard’s church in East London on All Hallow’s Eve, the band took to a candlelit stage in ornate ceremonial costumes, their stunning performance bookended by ritual chants and sacred dance.
In an increasingly risk averse and controlling industry constantly chasing faded copies of the last big thing The Living Gods of Haiti offer up a much needed alternative, a chance to peer behind the curtain and maybe find that magic still exists in music after all.