by BY CHRISTINA MAYO
Paying tribute to a lost loved one can weigh heavily on our hearts. But Kendall resident Yanatha Desouvre has made it his mission to help the world know and remember his guitarist uncle and godfather, Daniel Coulanges, who died in 1989 at 28 of HIV/AIDS complications.
“Imagine the musicians Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse, who all died at a very young age, had some rare unheard creative works that were never shared with the world. What would you do to get that music to the world?” Desouvre said in email.
He last saw his godfather 27 years ago when Desouvre was an 11-year-old boy. Coulanges, was a classical Haitian guitarist, “like his award-winning, world-renowned accomplished older brother Amos Coulanges.” Another uncle in the musical family, Nito Coulanges, was in the Haitian gospel band, Echo Mysteriuex.
Desouvre discovered his late godfather’s music through its remarkable journey to him.
A video of Daniel Coulanges playing “Killing Me Softly” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” traveled from New York to Paris to Miami.
“My Uncle Amos Coulanges said, ‘Nephew, someone told me they have a recording of Daniel playing guitar at a college in Staten Island, New York.’ He told me as soon as he gets it he’ll send me a copy,” Desouvre said.
“I received a gift I will never forget,” he said. “I opened the international package and silence filled the room. I put the DVD in my computer and with each guitar string my godfather plucked I cried and cried. My godfather was speaking directly to me with each note.”
“He died on April 30, 1989, two years before Magic Johnson made his announcement, and never had an opportunity to share his talent with the world, until now,” Desouvre said.
In the grainy video (https://youtu.be/nnX9-VhPtMY), Coulanges also plays a stunning classical guitar adaption of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.
Desouvre is trying to raise $1,358 through Indiegogo to have the recordings remastered.
He is also trying to raise awareness about HIV testing through the project. Desouvre is a prolific author. He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, grew up in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and now lives in Kendall with his wife and three children. Another is on the way. He works at the University of Miami.
He said he remembers his godfather in the Brooklyn apartment. He remembers him playing guitar and he said he does not want to throw away his chance to share that music with the world.
“My wife and I named our second daughter Danielle after my godfather. She shares his drive, ambition and sense of humor,” he said.
As for the recording, he said, “I managed to extract the audio from the video performances. I plan to get the songs mastered and produced so we may share this sentimental musical and video project with the world titled, ‘Daniel Coulanges — World's Finest — Live in New York’ because that was how the host introduced my godfather.”
He relates to and quotes “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the words in Miranda’s Tony acceptance speech: “Nothing here is promised, not one day.”
“I strongly agree with Lin-Manuel Miranda. I also believe since we all only have just one life to live we must all live that life to the fullest,” Desouvre said. “This is a story of how a nephew/godson wants to honor the legacy of his musically gifted late uncle/godfather Daniel Coulanges. That nephew/godson is me.”
Desouvre is planning to release the album for his godfather in January.
“After the album is produced all the proceeds from that album will create a fund to establish and finance a not-for-profit center called Daniel Coulanges Center for Arts, Technology, and Business where there will be workshops and classes for anyone who wants to learn the business of the art that they are passionate about,” Desouvre said.