BECAUSE HAITIAN CULTURE is itself such an ethnic stew, drawing from French, American and a variety of African traditions, it should come as no surprise that Haitian pop music covers a broad range of styles. There's an obvious Caribbean lilt to the sound, but that only colors the music, as if to alert the listener to the differences between the original and the local variations. As a result, a Haitian pop performer is faced with mastering several sets of mannerisms while somehow maintaining a consistent musical personality -- no easy task.
Danielle Thermidor comes amazingly close to achieving that pan-stylistic identity. As she demonstrates on "Danielle Thermidor Chante L'Amour," she's as adept at writing a dance beat as at wringing the last drop of sentiment out of a tearjerker.
"Masikini" opens the album with a bright, African-flavored groove that could almost pass for Soukous, and Thermidor gives the song an energetic full-throated treatment. In "Ecri- mouin," she turns to a style more obviously indebted to Mirielle Matthieu than M'Belia Bel, and comes through with equal strength.
Many American listeners will find the rhythm numbers easier than the ballads, but when Thermidor is able to turn out medleys as likable as her "Bouquet D'Amour," there's every reason to make an effort. DANIELLE THERMIDOR -- "Danielle Thermidor Chante L'Amour" (Dany LP-DP-1001); appearing Saturday at Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall.