Carnival Port-au-Prince 2009
‘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.
During the drier hours the crowds pounced to the nightmarishly engineered floats’ (cha) pulsing bass and screeching synthesized music of RockFam (Rap) and Kreyol La (Konpa). As things got heated up the skies rewarded the steamy crowds with a metaphorical cooling off. But it wasn’t enough as Mika Benjamin of Krezi (Konpa) and his crew turned the corner on Rue Capois keeping the heat on. Shortly thereafter around came BC- Barikad Crew (Rap), seeming to be Haiti’s newest musical sensation, creating the biggest wave of applause and jostling of the night as the rains fell harder and harder unable to dissuade anyone on the street from relaxing.
With each passing year wary Haitians warn not to go to Champs d’Mars for carnival, as its too dangerous. And with each passing year from simply observing the street it seems they’re right. It’s common to hear many Haitians say, I watch carnival at home on my TV because, “televisyon pa ka ba m kou”, my television can’t hit me. But as one watched the Barikad Crew float pass on the street and into the TVs and homes of the cautious many you’d have to be completely desensitized not to have felt the punches from pockets of brawlers even in your living room.
I don’t know BC’s music well but I hear it is lyrically well conceived, responsible and fit to Haiti’s young social climate. But book ended by Mass Konpa and Krezi, which are more traditional bands playing popular konpa tunes, you had to have felt and seen the change in temperament as BC came into view with their blazing flamethrowers as well as the movement, positioning and response of the police stationed on the streets.
As the violence mounted around BC’s cha I couldn’t help but think of old and ongoing debates in the US about rap music gnawing away at the innocent and deteriorating the social environment of inner city youth. And I wondered what do Haiti’s older generations see, those that have the memory of Haiti 10, 20, and 30 years ago? Many of them are still in attendance at carnival gyrating to the sounds of older konpa style sounds that seem more moderate now but were equally effective then such as lyricists and musicians like Sweet Mickey, the King of Konpa. When they see the swinging fists of their young spoiling what to them was once a raucous but peaceful affair in a different era, will they too soon be watching carnival from home on their TVs?