EMELINE MICHEL & BOUKMAN EKSPERYANS / “Help Haiti Mixtape”
Source: Breath of Life (BoL Mixtape January 18, 2010)
I’ve seen this movie before. Unfortunately. Well, actually what I experienced was the prequel, i.e. the undress rehearsal for the real ravishing of a people.
I live in post-Katrina New Orleans. I know what disaster and the neo-liberal aftermath looks like. Although I did, because of my experiences I really didn’t have to read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine theory to understand how advanced capitalism takes advantage of crisis, especially when the crisis happens in the so-called Third World.
(Yaknow, if this is a bit much for you to stomach, you can just listen to the music and skip down to the bottom half of this screed where I give some background on the music. I’ll understand if this introduction is bewildering and unbelievable, however I hope you open your eyes to the reality bearing down on us.
Moreover, check this, after what seems to be bad luck and hard times after hard times after bad luck, after “mo’ harder” times, Stevie Wonder is trying to tell us something that’s obvious to him, my man is telling me to watch out because it’s not really “bad luck,” rather what is happening is really a raw fuck!)
I remember… let me correct that, I “can not forget” sitting helpless in Houston and counting the days until the alleged mightiest and richest country on the planet could bring in basic aid to its own citizens. “I’m looking at Haiti” was my immediate impression of devastated New Orleans as I watched CNN back at the ass end of August 2005.
I had been to Haiti before. I’d seen the poverty there. I was not making a stereotyped comparison nor a knee-jerk simile, I had witnessed the same gut-wrenching conditions that prevailed outside the Ernest Morial Convention Center way back in the eighties when I traveled across Haiti from Cap Hatien in the north to Jacmel in the south. Even with tears in my eyes, I could see clearly what was happening.
Looking at Haiti now, I see New Orleans. And I know the aftermath isn’t going to be nothing nice.
It was not until the fifth day that the cavalry arrived in downtown New Orleans—want to take a bet on how long it takes major aid from the USA to arrive in Port au Prince?
But immediate food, water and medicine is not even the major question. In New Orleans they solved the major problem by giving the black and poor one-way tickets out of the flooded city. Where is the United States military going to send over a million Haitians?
And make no mistake, once again, just like in New Orleans, it’s the U.S. military that is in charge, except I don’t believe there is any real game plan for how to handle Haiti. Go here and here to read reports on the military take over of Haiti.
If I had not seen this movie before I might have been inclined to cut Obama some slack. But this shit just makes me mad all over again. The country of Iceland—which by the way is damn near bankrupted and is going through much tougher economic times than is the USA—tiny Iceland was able to get aid to Haiti before Obama and company moved.
And you know what, the USA military has invaded Haiti a couple of times before. The first and longest invasion was July 1915 – August 1934—that’s right, damn near twenty years. The Marines know the way, they know how to get to Haiti.
Plus, just like the U.S. government turned back international aid when it was offered to New Orleans, this same pattern is continuing in Haiti. Read this report for more info.
Excuse me if I stop watching before the next scene is over—I already know how foul the aftermath is going to be. I already know there is nowhere for millions of impoverished Haitians to go/be sent. I already know the Federal Government is not going to play a major hand in adequately building Haiti’s urban infrastructure beyond basic necessities. How do I know? Well, like I said, I live in New Orleans.
And I’m not the only one who sees what I see. Go here to read journalist Greg Palast’s hard analysis about the USA’s response to the earthquake in Haiti. There are also a number of Haitians who are more upset than I am. Go here to read a statement from Ezili Danto, a writer, performance poet and lawyer associated with the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.
Please don’t get the idea that I’m cynical about the future or that I’ve given up struggling, or that I’m going to completely forget about Haiti. Just the opposite. I’m more resolved than ever to continue to struggle. I have donated money to the Haitian relief effort and will donate more. I work in the public schools of New Orleans daily and will continue to so. But as for believing that capitalism will offer any fundamental relief to the people of Haiti: that’s not the way the movie goes.
There will be no Hollywood ending for Haiti. If we want things to turn out differently, we will have to make our own movie.
I believe in the power of music, the power to inspire, the power to sustain. Please listen to the music of Emeline Michel and Boukman Eksperyans.
“Haiti is our misfortune,/Haiti is our happiness./We are not a diaspora,/we are just trapped.
“If you only look at the pictures they always show of Haiti. We are always begging for something, or in big trouble. Because misery sells. But there is amazing stuff coming out of Haiti at the same time, beautiful art and music. This country has had a lot of suffering and pain and also so much strength and beauty.”
Emeline Michel is referred to as “the Queen of Haitian Song.” Her music is rooted in Haiti, the world’s first Black republic, and the only nation established by formerly enslaved women and men who successfully fought their way out of chattel slavery.
Born in Gonaives, Haiti, Emeline Michel started singing in her neighborhood church choir. When she was 18, Emeline won a scholarship to study music at the Detroit Jazz Center, USA. After her studies Emeline returned to Haiti and began her life as a professional musician. Over 15 years and 9 albums later Ms. Michel is a major Caribbean musician.
She has lived in France, Canada and the USA, performed worldwide, and never once stopped promoting Haiti. She is one of the few Caribbean women to lead her own band and her own production company. She garnered Haiti’s Musique En Folie awards for Best Haitian Album and Best Production for the year 2000.
The tracks on this Mixtape her from her latest release Reine de Coeur (Queen of Hearts – 2008), which she self-produced through her company Production Cheval De Feu (Horse of Fire Productions), employing over 35 musicians and recording in Haiti, New York, Montreal and Burkina Faso (West Africa).
Her music draws on her Haitian culture for not only rhythms and melodies but also for content and focus. Her lyrics address social conditions, particularly the dreams and realities of women in Haiti.
She had decided to celebrate New Year’s 2010 with her son Julian and left for New York shortly thereafter—and then the earthquake struck. Although she is physically safe, she is deeply affected by the disaster.
“We have a message — spiritual, social and political — for everybody, but the Haitians understand us a little bit more. Haiti is where we’re fighting against that establishment, the politicians.
“[Haitians] understand when we say revolution, we’re talking about spiritual revolution. You have to change yourself to change your world.”
Boukman Eksperyans, named for the legendary spiritual leader of the Haitian revolution, is the most famous Haitian music ensemble. Founded in the mid-eighties by Theodore “Lolo” Beaubrun and his wife Mimerose, the band has been consistently on the front lines for over twenty years. Their son Ted and daughter Laura are also members of the ensemble.
You don’t even have to speak kreyol (the Haitian variation of French) to hear how socially conscious these ensemble is. One of their songs was literally sung as people fought back against violent repression; some of the protestors were shot, numerous others were imprisoned. Despite government harassment the band continues in the spirit of the first revolution to promote freedom, justice and equality.
“We are harassed openly during concerts. They just put us out from the Carnival in February. The mayor [of Port-au-Prince] said that our music is too political. I have a radio program where we’re talking to the people. We do many demonstrations on the street against many political things. Before, it was terrible. They killed [audience members] in our concerts. Some men came onstage in our concert in 1992, and put a silencer on us, ready to shoot us. Our telephones have been tapped since 1990. The fighting continues.”
What immediately strikes me about this music is the optimism in it, the sound not of despair but of hope. Despite all of the setbacks, despite the seeming unending enmity from the French and USA governments focused on making a negative example out of the people who liberated themselves from slavery, despite all of that what you hear in this music is a celebration of life.
Haitian music is beautiful. Haitian music reminds me that if I let bitterness overtake me I will only end up souring my own soul. We must continue to struggle, surely, but we must also live and love or else all our struggles will have been for naught.
A luta continua, we will “will ourselves” to enjoy life howsoever we can, even in the midst of misery, or more precisely, especially in the midst of misery—let us do as Emeline advised in her first hit written by fellow Haitian musician Beethova Obas, let us somehow find “Plezi Mize” (Pleasure in Misery).
If our ancestors could overcome chattel slavery and could repulse the greatest military forces of their era, then surely we can deal with this deformed freedom we endure today.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Help Haiti Mixtape Playlist
These six tracks are from Reine De Coeur by Emeline Michel
01 “Gade Papi”
04 “Twa Fey”
05 “In Cha Allah”
These ten tracks are from La Révolte Des Zombies by Boukman Eksperyans
07 “Twoubadou Rasin”
08 “Tanbou Vye Gri”
10 “Lanmou Pa Foli”
11 “We Don’t Need No Middle Man!”
12 “Basen An Fon”
13 “Fight Like A Man!”
14 “Dare To Care”
15 “Lakou / Kasika”
16 “Beautiful Angel!”
This entry was posted on Monday, January 18th, 2010 at 8:00 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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