lundi 7 février 2011

Sa k pase Ayiti

Last Sunday, January 30th, I went to the launch of Sak pase Ayiti. It’s a song inspired by the January 12th earthquake (lyrics here), with the proceeds going to benefit an association for Haitian musicians, Ayiti Mizik. In the newspaper and online, the event was announced as being held from 4 to 7, which is why I decided to make it a family outing. It was held at Quartier Latin, one of my favorite restaurants – could be because they have free books for the grabbing! – but their apple pie was not satisfying, for future reference. We arrived at around 4:30pm. Well, the jam session started late – very late. When we got there, Ti Coca and his band were playing. Every now and then, the Sak pase Ayiti video was played on two screens.

I did wonder at the choice of venue for a fund-raiser. The restaurant’s back courtyard doesn’t seat many, so I have to wonder how much money was actually raised. Cds of the song and dvds of the video were both on sale. And everyone who made a purchase received a free T-shirt. Prestige Beer was the sponsor and they went all out, even offering two beers for the price of one. I did enjoy the intimate setting, and I trust they’ll raise more money at larger fundraisers to come.

At around 6pm, the MC, Stéphanie Renauld Armand got on stage and I thought she was going to announce that the artists were going to play. No, they were going to sign cds first. I guess that’s cool, but it was hard for me to be patient. And harder still for my 6 year old daughter.

Armand returned to the stage several times and as she described the project, she repeatedly stated that those involved wanted to fill a void. They asked themselves in light of the different collaborative music projects by others after the earthquake (We Are The World 25 for Haiti, Rise Again, Un geste pour Haïti), why there wasn’t a similar undertaking by Haitian artists. I have to admit the question confused me since several songs were produced and distributed by Haitian artists in the weeks and months following January 12, 2010. There were singles by Kreyòl La, T-Vice and at least one collective effort spearheaded by Michaël Benjamin. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I know there were several similar projects launched among artists in the Haitian diaspora. Maybe this is the first one with proceeds going towards a fund for Haitians artists?

Lionel Benjamin
Please excuse the poor quality!
Lionel Benjamin was introduced as president of Ayiti Mizik, the Haitian Association of Music Professionals. He reminded us of the fact that many Haitian musicians live in extremely poor conditions, and receive no help from government, regardless of their talent or fame. This has always been the case. Benjamin emphasized the fact that this association aims to help everyone associated with the Haitian music industry, from the musicians themselves to those who transport their equipment. He also announced a big concert to be held this summer, in honor of World Music Day in June.

It was close to 7 when the actual performances began. Yes, almost the time when the concert was scheduled to end. I regretted that I would not be able to stay until the very end, but I had my daughter with me and the following day was Monday, a school day.

But before we got to hear the music, which is why I was there, we had to endure the T-shirt auction. A T-shirt signed by all of the participants in the project was auctioned off to benefit the fund. The announcer for this portion of the event was Claudine Oriol, who actually had the idea that eventually became Sa k pase Ayiti. Obviously, she must get credit for that, but I have to say I wish she had stayed behind the scenes. First of all, she insisted on speaking English, even though she was aware that there was a big possibility that a lot of the people in attendance couldn’t understand her. Her bio states that she speaks English, French, Creole, Spanish, and Italian, so I’m not sure what was behind her reasoning, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. If I’m going to criticize foreigners who come to Haiti expecting everyone to speak English, I have to criticize Haitians who do it, too. (I guess you could consider it ironic that this post is in English. But I’m on a rotation – it’s time for an English post – and you can always use Google Chrome to translate.) Second of all, while auctioning the T-shirt that was signed by all of the musicians who participated in the event, including Wyclef Jean, Beethova Obas, and Jocelyne Béroard, Oriol repeatedly reminded people they could sell it on eBay for a lot of money. I assume it was meant to be funny, but I found it kind of disrespectful to the artists there. Is it so hard to imagine that someone could actually be proud and happy to own a T-shirt signed by Joël Widmaier, Renette Désir and Fabrice Rouzier? The third thing that made me wish Oriol had stayed off the stage or at least kept quiet was when she started pimping out herself, friends and cousins to increase the price of the T-shirt. Okay, it was supposedly just for a kiss on the cheek or a drink, but it was just wrong on so many levels. I was actually glad my daughter could not understand what she was saying. Especially when she said, “Hey, I even found a blond for you” or some such nonsense. I was furiously channeling Frantz Fanon. Wow. I did not expect to write so much about that, but I guess I needed to get it out of my system!

Sara Rénélik

Luckily, the jam session itself was great. It more than made up for everything I just complained about. The first singer to perform was Sara Rénélik. She was, as always, an amazing presence on stage. And the power in her voice was breathtaking. Rénélik, who is based in Canada, explained the association’s importance for her, mentioning musicians still living under tents. While in Haiti, she was also promoting l’École Verte d’Haïti.

Afterwards, Théodore Beaubrun, Jr. better known as Lòlò from Boukman Eksperyans performed. He started off a bit slow, but when he launched into Nou pap sa bliye, just about everyone started dancing.

He came back on stage later to jam some more with Bélo when he sang Lakou Trankil. They added a Bob Marley twist to it – No more trouble – which really fired up the crowd.

Unfortunately, the quality of the sound was poor which frustrated the musicians, but professionals that they are; they were able to put on a great performance anyway. Tifane and Bélo’s rendition of Se Kòm si was a big hit. At one point, my daughter asked why Bélo didn’t sing Jasmine. I told her it was because he had chosen to sing other songs instead. She was disappointed. Bélo is one of her favorite artists and she loves Jasmine. So we were both very happy when he chose to close his set with it. Thanks, Bélo!

Next up was Yohann Doré, a rock artist, who showed us just how versatile Haitian music is these days. Kéké Bélizaire’s solo during this particular set was brilliant. In fact, all of the musicians there: Kéké on guitar, Fabrice Rouzier on keyboard, Richard Barbot on bass, Shabba on drums (tanbou) and Joël Widmaier on the drum kit (batterie) were amazing. This was improv, so there were a couple of false starts, but overall, the performances were stellar. It was a wonderful reminder, if one was needed, of the talented musicians we have in our midst.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before Shabba’s turn at the mike, and I missed Joël Widmaier’s solo performance as well, but I have it on good authority that they were as awe-inspiring as everyone else. There was no live performance of the Sa k pase Ayiti single. I guess they’re saving it for the summer concert. If the jam session held on January 30th is any indication of what we have to look forward to, you can be sure that I’ll be there. In the meantime, you can purchase the single here

Jam session musicians: Richard Barbot, Bélo, Kéké Bélizaire, Yohann Doré, Patrick Jeudy, Lòlò, Sara Rénélik, Fabrice Rouzier, Shaba, Ti Coca, Tifane, Joël Widmaier

Musicians participating on cd:  BIC- Belo- Richard Barbot- Kéké Belizaire- Jocelyne Béroard- Carimi- Ti Coca- Raoul Denis Jr- Renette Désir-Yohann Doré - Jerry Wonda Duplessis - Fantom - Smile Fleurimont - Reginald Georges - Stanley Georges - Pauline Jean - Wyclef Jean- Patrick Jeudy- K.Libr’ de Mistic 703- Lòlò - Manzè- Jean-Philippe Martelly- Mikaben- Beethova Obas- J. Perry- Sara Rénélik - Fabrice Rouzier - Shabba - Shoubou - Tifane - Jean-Bernard Thomas - Joël Widmaier - Mushy Widmaier - Camel Zekri


6 commentaires:

  1. Thank you for the review Na. So sorry I missed it and impatient to see my t-shirt and cd :)

    The insistence on speaking English at an event for Haitians by Haitians is always annoying (and shows the way certain ppl still try to separate themselves from others), but it seems even more out of place when the event is for SA K PASE AYITI. Lol.

  2. I know you will love your t-shirt and cd!

    I think you're right about the use of English at Haitian events. It's sad really and one of the reasons I always say that French is not a problem in Haiti, the way it's used can be a problem. It's obvious that people can and do use English in the same way.

  3. First things first: This was a great report recounting the event until I was left hanging without the anticipated grand finale. There is a journalistic undertone to appreciate while reading this, assuming that you didn't videotape the performance. It take particular set of skills to chronologically write about events after a single exposure.
    Forgive me for writing this comment in english. I sense and live the frustration too while I read, but the dragging was to be expected since it was a fund raising event organized by Haitians. No pun!
    The line up was fabulous Lio Ben and Mika Ben, an ideal cultural legacy. For the rest of the stars, OMG! I really am living in the wrong country, but Thank you for bringing it all to life through justifiable complaints.
    I must admit that, in many instances, the knowledge of many Haitians serves as a source of pride or to show off. Events of this magnitude done for a haitian audience in Haiti should be a no brainer, but as we all know, some of us will push that self-serving envelope. From a broader perspective, That trend will persist given the gradual disappearance of the once dominating Francophone generation, thanks to immigration. It will take real efforts to maintain since future generations use an english word in every sentence. It is the tale of the printing press and the internet, sadly.
    Thank you for this great post, but still want my ending. :)

  4. Sorry I'm just now responding to this... what ending were you looking for?

  5. Well, you built the story up to a grand finale but you had to leave before the big bang. So I thought if I persisted, I would get the bang? Hope all is well. I'm still waiting for that email :)

  6. I actually did email you a while ago! Now I'm wondering if I wrote to the wrong address.