Riva Nyri Precil, the modern day Haitian Renaissance Woman
Riva Nyri Precil, You sing, you write, you dance, you make jewelry, you teach and you are a social influencer, Is there any other talent that you are hiding from us?
I am ever changing, evolving and learning more about myself and my talents while leaning further into my purpose. I do feel I’ll be rolling out different projects over time, like filmmaking and screenwriting for example, or clothing design, just to name a few.
An article written about you in 2014 was titled “Riva’s on a Mission to ‘Bring Haitian Culture into the Light’. Are you still on that mission? What has changed? What aspects of the culture are you bringing into the light?
Yes, I would say so. Bringing Haitian culture to light will require advocates and ambassadors well after I am gone. It’s lifelong work given the seemingly irreparable damage the media has done to our image as a whole. We have to teach people about our culture and unlearn the misinformation we’ve been taught over the years. A large part of my work is not only highlighting beautiful aspects of haitian culture, whether it be through music, dance, literature, storytelling, or traditional cuisine, but also demystifying vodou by normalizing the practice in small ways daily.
How do you use your platform and work as an artist to demystify Vodou?
Vodou is a way of life acknowledging that we all derive from one ecosystem. Honoring the loas (spirits), water, earth, fire, wind, self, I find it to be a beautiful practice filled with layers and complexities that will take lifetimes to understand but I try to share my practice and understanding of it with those who are interested in learning and connecting further with their ancestors and Haitian heritage.
There’s an educational component to your work as an artist, do you consider yourself an “Atis Angaje” if yes, when did you come to that realization and what does that entail?
Yes, though I’ve only recently made peace with that term. I used to shy away from leaning too far on one side of any issue until I met my husband Monvelyno who inspired me to walk confidently in the direction that spoke loudest to me and expressing my truth wholeheartedly. Our music addresses many social issues in Haiti, some of our songs are directly calling out the catholic church, and politically we don’t hold our tongue when we feel strongly about a particular issue.
This is a question that I promise to ask to both male and female artists as a way of balancing the narrative; As a mother, how do you balance motherhood, your own individual musical career and being with a band with your husband, Monvelyno?
It’s not always easy and has its challenges but life is a balancing act and I strive to balance my many passions with my family life and strived to maintain a healthy balance as much as possible. Our daughter Loa is already very creative so it’s not hard to get her engaged either through music, art or dance which makes it fun for us to be in constant creation mode around her.
Can you name 3 female producers in the HMI? Have you ever worked with a Haitian woman music producer?
Emeline Michel is the only one who comes to mind at the moment. I have had the honor and privilege of collaborating with her and have watched her work her magic firsthand. The Haitian music industry is dominated by male energy although now there seems to be more of an influx of female artists in the forefront which I’m pleased to see.
Tell us a little about the Lullaby album that you are working on, which I am super excited about as there’s a lack of variety in that area.
I too am very excited about this project, it came to me while I was pregnant with my daughter and I started researching what was already out there. There are several vintage recordings by Martha Jean Claude, Frantz Casseus, and Mimi Barthelemy which I love. My husband and I have started the recording process and it will be a combination of traditional lullabies put to our own modernized arrangements along with some original tunes as well.
Interview by: Francesca Andre