Global Hit – Manze Dayila & Nago Nation

The World

For our Global Hit today — we meet a musician from Haiti named Manze Dayila. She lives in New York now. Manze and her band Nago Nation have a new CD out. It’s called Sole, or Sun. Manze has experienced plenty of sunshine AND darkness in her life. The World’s Amy Bracken has her story.

Manze DayilaManze Dayila

One of the songs on Manze Dayila’s album is about Simbi d’lo, the Vodou spirit of water.

And it’s no wonder.

Manze grew up in poverty in the coastal town of St. Marc, Haiti, believing success in life lay far across the sea.

And one fall day in 1985, 19-year-old Manze boarded a rickety, overcrowded boat and headed for America.

After three rough days at sea, the boat was in bad shape and Manze was very ill, so the captain landed in Cuba.

Manze was seen by Cuban doctors and was urged to stay put. At the time, she was eight months pregnant. But after three weeks in Cuba, Manze and some of the other travellers got back into the still-un-repaired boat and continued on.

Manze: �Oh yes, I was determined to keep going because I really wanted to live the American dream, so I said I have to get here, we have to get here somehow.�

A few days later they arrived on Miami Beach.

Manze: �The boat ran ashore and it was a bright, beautiful day. And everybody was on the beach having fun, old, young people, everybody, and when the boat gets there people was very shocked, especially when they lift me up to take me off the boat. That’s when I heard all the screaming. People were saying, oh my god! She’s fully pregnant!�

All those on board were taken to Krome Detention Center.

Manze was given an I-94 form to allow her to stay in the country and apply for a green card, and she was taken to the hospital.

Six days later, her daughter, Charlene, was born.

Manze was eventually granted that green card and stayed in Miami.

Though not explicitly raised in the Vodou tradition, the religion later became an important part of Manze’s life, and at many points she says she was guided by spirits.

When Manze was living in Miami, a woman came to her in a dream and told her to head North, to New York City.

And that was where Manze found her rich, powerful voice.

A friend encouraged Manze to start writing music and performing. She sang for some dance troops, and in 2001 she auditioned for a permit to perform in the New York subway.

Jamie Propp was one of the judges.

Propp: �In the middle of an audition which had everything from mime artists to kazoo bands, this woman dressed in a very regal African-looking outfit stepped up to the stage and she proceeded to sing, and all I can say is that in the five minutes of this song that she sang, entitle Sole, I felt every human emotion. I felt joy, I felt sadness, I felt anger.�

Propp called Manze up and eventually became her manager.

For the next seven years, Manze performed on subway platforms, and saw that her music moved people, literally.

Manze: �Even though when I used to sing down the subway, people don’t understand a thing, but they just feel connected. Somebody, believe it or not, took off their shoes, dancing down the subway, barefooted, with me, and I’m sweating, I’m telling you I’m sweating, and some people just standing there helping me sing, with me, and dancing.�

Manze believes coming to the US allowed her to become the artist that she is.

Her creative expression extends beyond music to dance, clothing design and cooking� all of them solidly rooted in her Haitian culture.

Manze dreams of making enough money to go back to Haiti to open a women’s center to teach literacy and other skills.

But she’s not going to give up music.

Manze: �I’ll do that until my last breathe. I love to create a beautiful piece of skirt, create a beautiful top. All those things comes around, like the side dish, but the main dish, it’s my music. And no doubt.�

For The World, I’m Amy Bracken

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