First Haitian Roots Music Festival Live
The western part of the Caribbean island Hispaniola is called Haiti. It turns its face towards Jamaica and Cuba and is in fact in many ways similar to these countries and yet so different. Haiti is a burned-out republic in many ways. All over the country you can smell charcoal fires, and because most tropical woods have been cut down, one has to wonder where this charcoal comes from. Just across the border in the Dominican Republic one sees Jumbo-Jets landing with hundreds of tourists on all-inclusive packages. But only a few adventurous travellers come to Haiti and maybe they will stay in the historic Hotel Oloffson. The famous Hotel Oloffson is the scenery of Graham Greenes novel "The Comedians" which describes the life in Haiti under President Duvalier's regime.. The owner of the hotel is Richard Morse, whose mother, Emérante de Pradines is a famous Haitian folksinger. Morse had opened the hotel in the '80s for concerts of young bands like Boukman Eksperyans and under his direction the group RAM rehearsed there during the military coercion. Past and present, politics and culture are closely linked in Haiti.
Years ago Haiti was a centre of a rich heritage of Caribbean music, which influenced Cuba, Jamaica and New Orleans with its cultural creations born out of the mix of African ritual music and European traditions.
The modern urban pop music of Haiti dates back to the period between 1955-58, when bandleaders Jean-Baptiste Nemours and Weber Sicot gave birth to Compás (or Konpa) and Cadence Rampa. A rhythm similar to merengue, konpa had become quite stagnant for a decade or so and was not promising much in the way of creativity or change Its counterpart, Mzik Rasin, has been growing mor popular since the middle of the eighties while drawing on Haitian roots for ist inspiration.. Rasin Music or "MIzik Rasin" is music of political and social commitment. As a member of the first Rasin music group Boukman Eksperyans said:
"Rasin is the next reggae. There is spirituality and there is politics. We're talking about a revolution."
The language spoken in Haiti is Haitian Creole, enshrined in the 1987 constitution as an official language alongside French. Most of the Haitian artists sing in Creole. Haitian Kreyól is a blend of African languages with French, which developed since 1697, when the island Hispaniola was divided into French and Spanish parts
In the summer of 1995, almost 300 years after this division and after the dictatorship of the Duvaliers and the end of the military regime that followed Aristide, the first Festival Bouyon Rasin took place in a soccer-stadium at Port-au-Prince. For many artists this was the first public appearance on stage in a long time. Many of the singers had never been recorded or had been out of the country for years. The years of hidden musical activities and the return of emigrated stars like Jean Wyclef made this festival a strong demonstration of Haitian culture, political and social ideals. These live recordings reflect the hard times - there are some wrong keys, some mistaken entries, a broken microphone - but such is life in Haiti.
Musicians like Jean-Baptist Nemours or the mini-djazz bands had been of great influence in previous generations. Many remained in Haiti in the years of dictatorship, while others like Tabou Combo went to the USA for exile. Papa Jubé, Tchaka, Pelen, Rara Machine, John Steve Brunaché, Boukan Ginen, Boukman Eksperyans - they all live nowadays in Canada or the U.S.A. So does the producer and head of the Bouyon RasinFestival, Jean Jean-Pierre. He started his musical career 1970 in Port-au-Prince with the Bossa Combo and emigrated in 1974 to the USA where he works now as musician, arranger and journalist for the "Village Voice". Bands remaining in Haiti like Foula or RAM can't find enough jobs to make living out of music. For that reason some bandmembers are working in the USA with other groups.
Beside Rasin and Konpa there are two other terms, which are well-known and closely linked to Rasin Music: Rara and Vodou. Rara has its roots in the Haitian syncretistic vodou, the power of which was misused even by 'Papa' and 'Baby Doc'.
Rara is a rhythm, party and group, that come to life primarily in the week before Easter and to dominate the streets: African drums, chanting with call and response, music of vaccines(Vaksin, bamboo-tubes played like small didgeridoos) and trumpets, made out of sheet metal reminiscent of cut fuel-funnels. These are typical elements of this mostly folkloristic and rural scene, banned by catholic priests in past centuries as 'music of the devil'.
Vodou is up to these days something full of secrets, even more complex than Afrobrasilian Candomblé or Cuban Santeria. Vodou is very present in Rasin rhythms like Ibo, Congo, Yanvalou, Mayi, Petro or Djoumba. It is a focus of life for many Haitians, for whom this music is made for and for whom the festival "Bouyon Rasin" was organised.
Bouyon Rasin had no follow-up festival since its first presentation in 1995, making it even more important to release pieces of this festival as a historical document.
CLAUS SCHREINER (C) 1997
MORE INFOMATIONS IN BOOKLET, WRITTEN BY GAGE AVERILL
* Rootssoup by Gage Averill
Index of BOUYON RASIN :
1. RAM Ezuli (Kandjo)
2. BOB BOVANO Mpa dwe (Bob Bovano)
3. SIMBI Nou la (Stan Kalman)
4. BOUKAN GINEN Pale Palew (Eddy Francois & Evans Seney)
5. WAWA & RASIN KANGA Priyh Ginen (J.M.Forterey)
6. PAPA JUBE Anbago (Papa Jube)
7. BOUKMAN EKSPERYANS Legba (D.Beaubrun)
8. CELIA CRUZ Gede Zaryen (Trad.)
9. CELIA CRUZ Bemba Colora (José Claro Fumero)
10. KOUDJAY Rara (Sanba Kessy)
11. YANICK ETIENNE Lakou (Trad.)
12. FOULA Kaminizye (Wilfrid Lavaud)
13. MARTHA JEAN-CLAUDE Map Prale (Trad.)
14. WYCLEF JEAN with Papa Jube Band Improvisation (Wycleff Jean)
15. JOSE EL CANARIOALBERTO La Gitana ( Trad.)
16. SANBA ZAO & SIMBI YO Djaye (Sanba Zao)
17. RARA VODOULE Rara Vodoule (Rara Vodoule)
18. KANPECH Pale Yo (Fredo)