Overview: Let's Meet Haiti

The Caribbean -- Haiti (and Rara!)

Haiti is a small country in the Caribbean with a proud rebellious streak and a terribly troubled past.  This small former Spanish and then French colony, which shares an island called Hispaniola with the Domincan Republic, has a challenging history full of colonial manipulation, inspiring independence following an unprecedented slave rebellion (1791-1804), devastating environmental catastrophes, deep political failure, and, through it all, the ability of a resilient people to survive.     

For almost several decades (1957-1986) members of Duvalier family ruled Haiti -- first "Papa" Doc, then his son, "Baby" Doc.  Since then Haiti has endured several military coups and several bouts of leadership by popularly elected former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide -- some with U.S. support and some without. Throughout this chaos the astoundingly resilient Haitian people have become collectively poorer and poorer; a substantial number of educated Haitians have fled the nation. When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, it devastated a nation that has struggled so hard to stay hopeful despite having already survived devastation time and time again.

This week in class we have hope for Haiti as we sing:

-- We sing "We Are Happy," a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class. This week we sing hello in Haitian Creole -- BONJOU!

-- “Petit Oiseau” is a French folk song, sung in Haiti, about a lilting little bird. (More.)

-- “Krapo Tingele” is a Haitian tale about a frog, a horse, and the woman they love. (More.)   

-- “Angelique O” is a song from Haiti that seems, on the surface, to be about the poor treatment of a girl by a powerful family, but is actually much more. (More.)  

 -- “Loi Loo” is a Haitian play-along. Pay attention, watch my hands, then FREEZE! (More.)  

A LITTLE MORE

Haitin "mizik rasin" -- "roots music" -- consciously fuses traditional Afro-Haitian voudon, popularly known as “voodoo,” rhythms with modern forms of music like international hip-hop. (The music of the Fugees, featuring Haitian-born Wyclef Jean, especially resonates with Haitian youth.) 

Boukman Eksperyans is a "mizik rasin" band that formed in the late '70s when Lolo Beaubrun and his wife Mimerose joined a Haitian spiritual community (a "vodou lakou-s") and founded a vodou-music study group called Moun Ife ("People of the Abode of the Deities"). The band's lyrics detailed the harsh living conditions in Haiti and called out the Haitian powers-that-be; its members fled the nation after the 1991 military coup overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide and lived in exile for many years.

The name "Boukman" references Dutty Boukman, a Haitian vodou priest who is generally agreed to have started the Haitian revolution in 1791. "Eksperyans" refers to the "Jimi Hendrix Experience."

Learn more about Boukman Eksperyans: 

-- Boukman Eksperyans' website: "a musical revolution?" 

-- Listen to a public radio report on Boukman Eksperyans checking in on them after the earthquake   

-- Watch Boukman Eksperyans on YouTube: "Gran Bwa"