Haitian DJ and producer Michael Brun has seen his young star rise quickly in recent years, fusing modern EDM styles with influences drawn from his Haitian roots — the salsa-like kompa, as well as rara, a style of festival music that’s become massively popular across the nation. On the heels of several hit releases, including 2016’s ‘All I Ever Wanted’ and the 2018 World Cup anthem ‘Positivo’, Brun gave back to his community by founding the Kid Coconut label, designed to be an outlet for other Haitian artists as well as his own music.
Brun has focused much of his efforts on feeding this success back into the communities that inspired him. He’s been mentoring aspiring musicians at the Audio Institute in Jacmel, Haiti, and raising funds and resources to provide modern music tools for the students there. “Native Instruments gave a bunch of gear and software to the students, and I started my crash course on using Maschine and some of the other gear,” he says. “It was really exciting because I love all the Native Instruments products, and getting to share that was such a cool experience.”
But music wasn’t always Brun’s intended path; he was studying medicine and on his way to becoming a physician before fate intervened. “The whole reason I wanted to be a doctor was because I’ve received so many blessings and a good education, to be in a place where I was always able to do what I wanted to achieve — and that was because I had access, and a good family,” he says. “Especially in Haiti, those things are all so rare.” Brun says he wanted to share this privilege with others: “I felt like being a doctor would allow me to do that in the most direct way I could think of.”
Music, however, had always been a passion of Brun’s, who grew up in a family in which everyone played an instrument; his father even had a band of his own. “It felt like something that was close to my heart, but that I never actually thought of as a career,” Brun says. While he was in college, lightning struck: Brun had posted several of his bedroom productions on Soundcloud, and they caught fire. “Reaching a very large audience so quickly and people sharing it and getting label offers and management offers — it felt really special, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” he says. Even his college advisor was convinced, telling Brun: “You should give this a shot.”
“I think that one of the biggest factors for me being where I am today is the fact that I had access to a good education — and not only school, but the people around me that were instilling good values and work ethic and important factors in life that I feel like lead to success,” he says. “I really wanted to continue that trend — I thought that if I could share that with others, maybe more people are going to live their dreams and achieve whatever they put their minds to.”
Indeed, the weekend Brun spent working with the Haitian community at the Audio Institute with the Native Instruments video team served as the inspiration for his exclusive Sounds.com sample pack, ZEL. The pack includes 20+ drum loops and one-shots based on the traditional Caribbean instruments that have come to define his sound; it’s based on Brun’s (as-yet unreleased) track ‘Zel’ (which means “wings”), featuring the artists Strong G and Gardy Girault. “What Strong G is saying [on the track] is that music gives him wings,” Brun notes. “I feel like having access to a wide range of sounds [does the same] — it kind of takes you to a different place, somewhere you’ve never gone before.”
“The process behind the pack was to come up with an arrangement, and stemming out specific parts of the song so that people could see a clear outline of what a song that I’d work on would look like,” he says, noting that he also incorporated a number of additional, complimentary sounds as well.
“The pack is really about capturing moments versus having a super clean, high-quality, polished sound,” Brun continues. “I believe that when you’re recording something, that the way you record at that moment can’t be replicated. You can probably work really hard to adjust things and get it pretty close to it, but to me, the vibe when you capture something is as special as the sound itself. So this pack really reflects that moment in time, and I hope it helps people get transported in a way to somewhere else as well.”
For Brun, it’s another opportunity to share the Haitian musical styles he grew up on with an outside world that he hopes will finally get familiar. “I think the thing about Haitian music right now is the fact that it’s just so untapped; a lot of people might not even know what Haitian music sounds like,” he says. “Rara music, which is the foundation for the release, is really obscure to the world, even though it’s such a huge part of the music culture in Haiti. I think [this pack] is going to open up the talent of a lot of people and producers with these really unique sounds.”
You can download ZEL from Sounds.com here.