Just A Quickie With... New Yorker musician Richard Morse, leader of the RAM band in Vodou Nation at York Theatre Royal.

How did Richard Morse switch on to Haitian music?

"To start at the beginning, I was living in New York, and because my mother's Haitian I decided to go to Haiti and put Haitian rhythms to my music.

"It turns out I'm a third generation Haitian vodou singer, which I didn't know at the time, so that was good timing, wasn't it?

"I'd grown up listening to the Rolling Stones and Sly And The Family Stone, loving their rhythms, and then I'd go to my mother's studio and wonder why her rhythms were so different."

Is your mother musical too?

"She's a vodou priestess and she recorded three albums in the 1950s, one called Vodou, another called Creole Songs From Haiti, and what she was doing in the 1940s and 1950s I'm doing now: taking Haitian music to the world."

How did you start?

"I started putting my project together in 1990 and it took five years to get my band together. I first had to learn the language and find a way into Haitian society. Four months after I arrived there, I remember there was shooting in the streets and political unrest. Should I go or should I stay? It was graduate school in America or stay in Haiti, I stayed, and I found a job as assistant manager at the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. Eventually I took it over... the manager was busy playing backgammon. Well, he had to do something."

When did RAM gain momentum?

"We did a show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2000 and then a tour in 2001, with just the music, but we found people didn't know about Haitian history or even where Haiti was. We met the producer Jan Ryan, who said she wanted it to be more of a theatre show with more dancers, and that's how Vodou Nation came about."

Describe the impact of Vodou Nation in sound and vision.

"I see it as the Haitian vodou version of The Beatles' film Yellow Submarine, The Who's movie Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall. A lot of it is metaphorical and spiritual, on a journey to a country you have never been. It's like a psychedelic trip! The more you know about Haiti the more you can enjoy it but for someone who hasn't gone there, Vodou Nation is the way to learn more."

Richard, I saw the show in its West Yorkshire Playhouse premiere earlier this summer, and while I loved the music and the spectacle, I struggled to decipher the story.

"Well, it took me years to figure out what's going on in Haiti. So it's normal for you to have to work out what's going on, but we have put a little more narrative into the video sequences since the premiere, so you can sit back and every so often you can learn more about the situation or history from the screen."

Do you see Vodou Nation as being an ambassador for Haiti's musical heritage?

"Because Haiti has been ostracised, the rhythms and the dances have remained pure but the music is slowly starting to spread out now because the Haitian diaspora is spreading. With me having mixed Haitian and American blood, I can bring in the Western influence that can help the music cross the bridge."

Vodou Nation, York Theatre Royal, July 20 to 24, 7.30pm nightly plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Tickets: £11 to £15, students and under 25s £3.50, on 01904 623568.

Updated: 15:35 Thursday, July 15, 2004