mercredi 12 mai 2010

Nou la – Or how not to package Haitian culture

On May 9th, a friend and I went to Le Villate in Pétionville to attend Nou la, a concert to benefit The Haitian Red Cross. I meant to bring my camera, but forgot it. I’m still developing my blogger reflexes!

It felt a bit strange to go out on the town. I remember the first time I went to a restaurant after the earthquake. It was mid February and I was surprised at the number of other patrons there. I guess I expected everyone to be camping out outdoors somewhere waiting for the next aftershock.

But the nightlife here has been stirring from its slumber for a while. The smaller bars and clubs reopened their doors months ago. Recently, there have been performances by RAM, Djakout and Kreyòl La.

I didn’t attend any of those shows. I felt most comfortable reentering the night scene with a benefit concert. I especially appreciated the fact that 80% of the proceeds were slated to go to the Haitian Red Cross. There have been massive donations to the International Red Cross, but actually very little of it has made its way to the Haitian branch. Unfortunately, I don’t think it made much money from this event, as not too many people showed up. I’m sure the rain had a lot to do with that. The Minister of Culture, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue was in attendance, as was the actress Gessica Généus.

As my friend and I set out for Pétionville from Delmas, it started to rain heavily. We wondered whether the concert would even happen, but since it was an indoor venue, we decided to take our chances. When we got to Le Villate at a little after 5pm, the woman who greeted us asked us if we were there to perform. We were a bit taken aback and wondered aloud whether the artists had even arrived. She assured us that they had.

Well, about an hour later, we were invited into the performance area where we waited some more. We also watched several artists filing in. When the show finally got underway, the MC started off by apologizing for the delay and blaming it on the rain.

The concert began with a rendition of the National Anthem, a choice that can only be applauded. I cannot tell you who performed it, however, because his name was never given. There was no program distributed and the performers’ names were rarely announced. When they were, it was by whichever artist followed them on stage. Several well-known artists performed, such as Beken, Renette Désir, Stanley Georges and Mystic 703. But some of the lesser known artists were quite good and it’s a pity that they weren’t properly introduced. For example, there was a comic act that got a lot of laughs from the audience, but I have no idea who they were.

Nou la. A fitting title, for although many Haitians were lost in the earthquake, the majority of us are still here. Nou la, but now what? How does Haitian culture move forward after January 12th 2010? From the very first days after the earthquake, people insisted upon the importance of Haitian culture as a source of pride and richness. And I certainly don’t disagree. But I think so much more can be done to promote and showcase that culture.

The May 9th event was an opportunity to celebrate life, Haitian culture and the Haitian spirit. That came across well. It just seems a shame that more wasn’t done to showcase the talent present. I was first intrigued by the poster announcing the event. A drum, guitar and other instruments on a pile of rubble. The simple yet powerful words: Nou la. The commercials on TV grabbed my attention as well. Artists alone or in groups in front of a black background saying that we won’t forget what happened, we can’t forget those who are gone, but we are here. I would have liked to see some of the attention to detail demonstrated in the ad campaign on the night of the actual show.

Although the focus was on music, with both traditional songs and original compositions represented, other talent was on display as well. There were several paintings mounted on and surrounding the stage area representing a female Haiti rising. (Of course, I have no idea who signed them as it was never stated; the paintings were never even mentioned by the MC.) Several singers stated that many of the outfits worn by the performers were created by Haitian designer Phélicia Dell. A few skits and declamations were included in the performance.

My goal here is not to simply criticize this one event. I enjoyed the show. The idea for a Haitian benefit concert to benefit the Haitian Red Cross is a wonderful one. I just think that beyond stating how rich and vibrant our culture is, it’s time to start treating it as such. Packaging says a lot about how we feel about the content. If we really value Haitian culture, the way we choose to frame it must reflect that. The Nou la benefit concert did not do a good job of framing the artists who participated.

I have no memento of this event. No picture (my fault for forgetting the camera!), no ticket stub and no program. There were about twenty sponsors listed, among them Voilà and FOKAL, so I’d think programs would have been a possibility. Perhaps a cd will be forthcoming. One can always hope.


5 commentaires:

  1. Very pertinent comments! This is how valuable opportunities are missed. It happens repeatedly in North America, too, with small independent / ad hoc productions. I'll try to forward this around in the hopes that it eventually reaches the organizers - they'll be able to do better next time!

  2. Thanks! The organizers were Corps et Ame productions and Play! but I don't have any contact info for them.

  3. Superb commentary an I would like to repost a paragraph on my fb page with the permission of the blogger.

  4. Sure, lmb, you can post a paragraph.