Gaston "Bonga" Jean Baptiste
Folklorist; Music: Instrumentalist
Gaston Jean-Baptiste, known as “Bonga”, is a musical virtuoso who has been performing and studying traditional Haitian drum, dance and song since the age of seven. He began playing drums in his family’s peristil in his hometown of Croix-des-Mission in La Plaine, an area of Haiti known for culture and history.
Bonga is regarded as a master of the Afro Haitian drum, sought-after for his extensive repertoire of pan-African rhythms. A dynamic performer, accompanist, session player and educator, Bonga works on stage, in the recording studio, and in educational settings. He is one of the few drum experts and craftsmen outside of Haiti who continues to build traditional drums using techniques that are centuries old.
As a core member of the seminal Haitian roots bands, Boukman Eksperyans and Foulà, Bonga was invited to the U.S. in the ’90s when musicians were becoming a strong voice for the Haitian people. Since then, Bonga has continued to play solo and in ensemble and at numerous worldwide venues. He is a featured performer with Peter Yarrow, Grace Jones, Dan Zanes and Urban Tap, to mention a few. His drums opened the NY premiere of the Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge” tour and he is prominently featured on recordings by Wyclef Jean and Salif Keita.