Jean Elie Telfort a.k.a. Cubano is considered by many as the Godfather of konpa.
Cubano was born in Port-De-Paix, Haiti on October 20, 1950.
He started singing and playing the Bass Guitar in the catholic choir of “Les Freres De L’Intruction Chrétienne” in his home town. Jean Elie Telfort, a gifted vocalist, was one of the forces behind Skah Shah’s success in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, which was then the flourishing peak of konpa music in Haiti. His mother thought him traditional and old time Haitian songs. His father, a skilled tailor, taught him discipline and the virtue of hard work.
Jean Elie Telfort, the eldest of three children, grew up as an outstanding young man and served as a role model for his brother Georges, a mathematician, and his sister Camille, a nurse.
CUBANO’S BIG BREAK
Cubano was a teenager in the summer of 1964 when Gerald Dupervil, one of the biggest Haitian stars in the 60’s and 70’s, and his band “Riverside Band” came to Port-De-Paix to perform for “Fete Patronale“, the town’s annual party. To everyone’s surprise, Riverside band’s bass player was unable to make the trip. So, Cubano’s music instructor urged him to approach Gerard Dupervil to fill the void. After several hours of rehearsals, Cubano managed to play the bass flawlessly and efficiently for the band. This experience would become perhaps the most important influential moment of Cubano’s musical career. After finishing school in “Notre Dame De Lourdes” of Port-de-Paix, Cubano moved to Port-Au-Prince in 1967 to complete his studies at “Lycee Petion“. In 1969, he earned a degree in accounting.
While in Port-au-prince, Cubano kept going back and forth to his hometown of Port-De-Paix. He loved playing soccer in the summer and he was still the lead singer in his church choir. Soon Cubano formed a small band called “Perle Des Antilles” which featured his schoolmates and childhood friends Roger M. Eugene a.k.a. Shoubou, Jean Alcindor, Max Maurin, and Michel Jadotte.
CUBANO’S SECOND BIG BREAK
In 1967, Cubano received a letter from his friend Roger M. Eugene a.k.a Shoubou informing him that Shleu-Shleu was looking for a lead singer. The next day Cubano boarded a bus to Port-au-Prince just to take part of the auditioning process that was being held by the group. Within a few months Cubano established himself as monarch in Haitian music, his voice can be heard at the pinnacle of La Citadelle (Haiti greatest monument). Cubano sang “toup pou yo” the anthem of the Haitian National Soccer team with the legendary players like Emmanuel “manno” Sanon, Tom Pouce, Philippe Vorbe, that made to the World Cup to Munich Germany 1970. In 1973, Cubano, the godfather of compas, left Haiti to begin a new journey in New York.
THE BIRTH OF SKAH-SHAH
While studying Computer science at Queens College, Cubano teamed up with Arsene Appolon, Loubert Chancy, Johnny Frantz Toussaint, Mario Mayala and Georges Francis to launch one of the most successful compas band in that era, Skah-Shah. Skah-Shah performed for the first time in July 29, 1974 at Malibu night Club, New York. Michel St Victor a.k.a. Zouzoule and the other members joined the band later. As one of the founders of Shak Shah, Cubano has been responsible for numerous multi-chart-topping songs and albums. With the release of Skah Shah’s first album, which featured one of kompa’s most memorable songs” Haiti”. The group played numerous showcases around New York City’s Metropolitan area, Europe, Haiti and the French Caribbean.
Instantaneously, Cubano became the idol of Konpa music around the world. With his majestic voice and charismatic style he helped to earn the title as the number one band in Compas – hence “Skah-Shah #1“. Since the pre-dawn era of Compas history, “Skah-Shah #1” was the first Haitian band to perform 6 days a week. As the group’s appeal broadened in the 70’s, Arsene Appollon left in 1976 to form Skah-Shah D’Haiti. Cubano became more of a leader for the group, he helped steer Skah-shah #1 in the right the direction. The group recorded several hit albums from 1973 until the original group dissolution in 1992.
Cubano, a Haitian national treasure and a global icon of konpa music
Many people thought that was the end of Skah-Shah # 1 and Cubano but Jean Elie Telfort was determined not to watch his dream fade away. By the 1990’s “Nouvel Generation konpa,” a popular new trend in Haitian music was in full swing and Compas Direct which was Shah Shah’s style was not very appealing to a new generation of Haitians. Cubano was not discouraged by the lack of interest in konpa. He re-introduced Shah Shah to the general public in 1993 by bringing younger and more talented musicians. These musicians were Makarios Cesaire (one of the best Haitian guitar players), Yves Abel, Welmir Jean Pierre, and veteran musician Richard Duroseau (a sharp and fierce pianist and accordionist who played with Nemours Jean Baptiste), Camille Armand (1974), Claude Degrottes, Claudy Aladin, Romane Doval, Paul Lamarre, Jean Charles Marc, Pierre Lerebours, and Thomas Boyer from Berkeley University. Completely in charge and growing in confidence, Cubano has demonstrated the diversity and seriousness of his music by recording four compact discs. With this group of musicians, he has recorded numerous memorable songs, Juliana, Hommage A Nemours, Gina, Fanatik, Knockout, Bel-ange, Plezi Compas, and Amour D’enfance etc. It should also be noted that Loubert Chancy, Zouzoul, later Richard Durosseau and other original members of Skah Shah #1 reunited to form Bazouka Skah-Shah in the mid 1990’s. After more than 30 years experience in the HMI(Haitian music industry) industry, Cubano remains indefatigable. Skah Shah no longer plays every weekend. He now performs occasionally in New York, Paris, Haiti, and other French Antilles.Skah Shah’s reign is still striving with particular audiences and fans.
According to Mario de Volcy, a famous Haitian drummer from another glorious Haitian band Bossa Combo and music historian, Cubano is one of the finest Haitian musicians that ever lived. As a human being, Cubano makes you feel comfortable socializing with you. He is very humble and respectful of others. Cubano never speaks about his accomplishments and his talents. He accepts people for who they are. Cubano has a God given talent to make harmonious music, he also dances very well. Harry Pierre, a long time Skah Shah fan refers to Cubano as being the disciple of Nemours Jean Baptiste, someone who seeks to preserve the legacy of pure kompa music.In person, Jean Elie Telfort is a shy individual with private warmth. He leads a quiet life when he is not playing music. Cubano is a devoted husband, and a father of two lovely girls, Kizzy and Patricia. He is a big sports fan, particularly international soccer.He also plays tennis everyday to keep in shape.
Jean Elie Telfort, “the Godfather of Konpa“, is a true Haitian legend.
His passion, devotion, and commitment for Haitian music has brought joy to nearly three Haitian generations. There’s not enough room on this page to pay tribute to Jean Elie Telfort and Skah Shah and to talk about the impact they have had on Haitian culture and music. Haitian roots, which are often forgotten by a newer generation, should be always remembered because of the history and rich culture of our small nation. Whether it’s konpa, compas, Djazz creole, troubadour, folklore, ibo, and voodoo music, we should never take for granted the uniqueness of the Haitian cultural experience.
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