Guitar heroes: Musicians to hold fund-raiser for Haitian guitar school

Axe men: Marc Ribot, left, with his guitar teacher Frantz Casseus in 1987.
Harriet Ribot

It’s a thin line between love and Haiti for this musician.

Veteran New York City guitarist Marc Ribot will host and headline a Downtown fund-raiser on June 16 to help kids in Port-au-Prince learn guitar.

Ribot — who is best known for his collaborations with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Marianne Faithful — has long been a champion for the Haitian musical community. He received his earliest training from Frantz Casseus, a classical guitarist and composer from Port-au-Prince, and has strived to keep his teacher’s legacy and recorded works alive ever since. So when an earthquake ripped through the Caribbean nation in 2010, Ribot knew he had to help the country that had done so much for him.

Using money he had tucked away after inheriting the publishing rights to his mentor’s compositions, Ribot helped open the Frantz Casseus Young Guitarists Program in Port-au-Prince.

“They involve low income kids in music, providing them with instruments and instruction in classical guitar,” said Ribot. “It was perfect way to impact the situation there in a positive way and carry out Frantz’s wish to perpetuate the legacy of his music.”

The school has been successfully carrying out its mission for nearly four years now, but its funds are about to dry up. So Ribot organized the concert, which will take place at the Issue Project Room, to help raise some much-needed cash so the school can keep its doors open.

The show will feature performances of Casseus’s work by Ribot and fellow classical string-strummers Alberto Mesirca and Marc Mathelier, who were also schooled by the guitaring great. The line-up will also include all-brass group Trio Blastphemy and a set by Casseus’s great-nephew DJ Greg Caz — best known to Brooklyn audiences for his Sunday night “Brazilian Beat Brooklyn” parties at the now-shuttered Black Betty bar in Williamsburg.

The evening will also help to celebrate the release of a book of Casseus’s guitar works, which features newly discovered compositions.

“I inherited what few possessions Frantz had, including his record collection,” Ribot said. “Inside a Chopin box set was a notebook full of compositions, early drafts of finished work and a lot that were never recorded.”

Keeping Casseus’s music alive has been quite the labor of love for Ribot, but after finally visiting the school he helped found in Haiti last year, he is glad to see his work has not been in vain.

“The kids are fabulous,” he said. “All I can say is that it’s really inspiring and we really want it to continue.”

Benefit for the Frantz Casseus Young Guitarists Program at Issue Project Room [110 Livingston St. between Boerum Place and Court Street in Downtown (718) 330–0313]. June 16 at 7pm. $25.

Stringer: New York City guitar veteran Marc Ribot will headline a fund-raiser for the Frantz Casseus Young Guitarists Program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which he helped found.
Photo by Ziga Koritnik

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