For me, Haiti will always conjure up sounds of rara music. Rara is Haitian street music, often celebrated during Catholic and Vodoun holidays, with a rhythm that is almost hypnotic. Rara can be both celebration and resistance. NPR recently reviewed RAM - a Haitian band that has long combined elements of rock and rara. Listen to the review here or read the transcript below. Better yet, go see them perform at the Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince.
The Art Museum of the Americas (operated by the Organization of American States) is hosting an exhibit entitled “On Common Ground: The Dominican Republic and Haiti.” The most interesting aspect of the exhibition is actually the commentary by the Dominican and Haitian artists. It is refreshing to hear Dominicans and Haitians elevate what they have in common, including a love of art and music. Each country would benefit from cultural exchanges with its neighbor. More from the artists follows:
Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis kicks off Haiti's week-long 2013 International Jazz Festival today. The festival features two dozen perfomers around the world and workshops for aspiring Haitian musicians. The full Miami Herald article follows and a schedule of performances can be found on the Festival Website. Let us know if you were able to attend this year!
To say the Dominican Republic and Haiti have a difficult history is an under-statement. Despite historical (and largely artificial) divisions, there is much the two countries share. This includes a love of music, dance, rum and a good fet/fiesta. The Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center and the Haitian and Dominican Embassies teamed up yesterday to hold a concert celebrating friendship among two peoples who share an island and a future. Enriquillo Tejada y Los Clarinetes Magicos and Tabou Combo represented their countries well.
When thinking of Haitian music, Konpa, Racine, Twoubadou are probably the first styles that come to mind. Like many other Caribbean countries though, Haiti has a small and vibrant jazz community. As with its neighbors, Haiti has been hosting its own jazz festival since 2007 - with the exception of 2010 due to the earthquake. Jazz is often described as uniquely American - yet Haitians living in New Orleans contributed to its development before it even had a name. An article on the festival by Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald follows. Could art, music, and film festivals breathe live into Haiti's tourism sector? Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.
“Are you a Missionary? What is Your Religion?” Two common enough questions when Haitians are getting to know foreigners. Haiti is a religious country and even the smallest villages have multiple churches if not a library or a clinic. While every imaginable denomination has a presence in Haiti, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodoun form an uneasy trinity. Haitian Vodoun is a vibrant, fascinating religion. One need not be a Vodouisant to experience it, appreciate it, and learn from it.
You don't have to go to Haiti to start learning about Haitians. In many cities along the East Coast, there are ample opportunities to experience Haitian culture. The Tap Tap Restaurant in Miami is a great place to enjoy Haitian food, music, and art at the same time. If in Miami, it is well worth a visit.
Although one would not know it from most mass media coverage of Haiti, it is a beautiful, little country. For that reason, I was happy to read Amy Wilentz's excellent article in Conde Naste. She describes her own love affair with Haiti and then lists where a person can stay and play. As I read it, I thought of all the things I miss about Haiti - the sandy beaches, drinking rum punch, listening to racine music, going to vodoun ceremonies, napping on straw mats, talking on porches, as well as the countryside camraderie and never-ending jokes and pranks. For some, it is time to visit Haiti for the first time. For many of us, it is time to go back.
From May 21st-24th, there will be a festival of films, workshops, and music in Miami to celebrate the premiere of the documentary "The Other Side of the Water". The Other Side follows the 20 year journey of a Haitian rara band in America. Much like Haiti itself, rara is unique, compelling and chaotic. If you have a chance to attend, by all means do. The Miami Light Project, the Backyard Movement, Change Charity, Inc., Moksha Family, and HaitiXchange.com will be participating. Below is more information and a schedule.
‘Apre dans tanbou a lou’---Amid some of Haiti’s chronic concerns, upcoming senatorial elections, unstable gas prices, and food insecurity, tens of thousands of Haitians still managed to put all their troubles aside and revel in 3 days of carnival festivities which culminated yesterday during Mardi Gras under an unusual downpour of rain.