With Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent being deported from the Dominican Republic to their neighbor Haiti, the beauty of these islands is getting lost among the political chaos. While it is fair and justified to highlight the injustice that is happening, I want to shine a sliver of light to both nations that make up one island, Hispaniola.
One of the reasons I backpacked Haiti was to understand the difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. What I found was two distinct yet similar societies with their own respective cultures and beliefs but also misinterpretations of one another. However, what captivated me from both was the music. As you have read in my Dominican music playlist, they inspire each other musically, bringing them together even at a time when they are separate.
I wanted to compile a list of Haitian music to inspire your travels to the islands. Enjoy!
Méringue is one of Haiti’s folk music which is similar to Dominican merengue but without the use of the accordion. It has lost its fame to Compa.
Compa, Haiti’s national music, is a modern méringue of African and European roots extremely popular due to the contributions of saxophonist Nemours Jean Baptiste (grandfather of compa) and horn player Webert Sicot in 1955. They then formed a group called Conjunto International. T-Vice, founded in 1992 in Port-au-Prince and Carimi, founded in 2002 in New York are two of today’s great compa bands.
Zouk, although having its roots in Compa, is originally from Guadeloupe and Martinique. Antillean musicians were inspired by Conjunto International’s songs and eventually created a genre called zouk. Kassav’, a band from Guadeloupe popularized the genre in the 1980s but losing its popularity soon after because of its uncomplimentary fast tempo. Today the current zouk known as zouk love, has a slow, soft and sensual rhythm. Thierry Cham is a zouk- love artist from Guadeloupe and one of the most famous zouk singers in the French Caribbean Antilles.
Rasin, “roots music” or in Creole, mizik rasin is a Haitian punk movement that has African beats deriving from voodoo culture. After the voodoo culture appropriation from corrupted dictator Francois Duvalier “Baby Doc,” rasin was born in 1987, a fusion of traditional vodou lyrics, instruments and rhythms and modern rock and roll arrangements. RAM, a mizik rasin band based in Port-au-Prince, play at the Hotel Oloffson every Thursday since the ‘90s. If you do nothing else while in Haiti, go here!
Other mizik rasin band, Boukman Eksperyans, is also from Port-au-Prince. The first name, Boukman, assumed from a vodou priest who led a religious ceremony in 1791, is known to be the start of the Haitian Revolution.
Has the music inspired you to go to Haiti?