In Haiti, music is in the air as pre-Carnival celebrations, jazz fest start the party

Carnival may be more than a month away, but that's not stopping Haitians from launching the party early.

A week after marking the fourth anniversary of Haiti's tragic Jan.12, 2010, earthquake during which their singer-turned-president urged them to celebrate life, Haitians kicked off pre-carnival celebrations Sunday.

Jumping and dancing into the streets, they transformed a downtown public square that once housed tens of thousands of quake victims under tents, into a musical stage.

Oversized floats, DJs and enthusiastic Rara bands took over the Champ de Mars in front of the razed presidential palace as part of the weekly carnival warm-ups that will take place between now and carnival weekend, March 2-4, in the city of Gonaives.

Like in the last two years, Haiti's official carnival celebration will rotate this year outside of the capital.

Carnival drums, however, were not the only rhythms playing Sunday in this quake-recovering capital. Uptown in Petionville, hundreds of jazz fanatics enjoyed the second day of the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival in the capital featuring Daniel Schenker Quartet of Switzerland, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke from Benin and Haiti's Réginald Policard.

The musicians performed at the NH El Rancho hotel, one of several newly rebuilt and opened post-quake hotels in Haiti.

"In North America, there is just very sad press about Haiti, about poverty and despair, but no one is touching on the spirit of the people," Canadian jazz artist Julie Michels said at a Sunday brunch hosted by Canada's Embassy to welcome the jazz festival.

"There's this wonderful combo of grace and strength of character that is just profound, and that's pretty humbling. What's going on here is amazing," she said.

Michels' performance at the festival was sponsored by Canada, one of 13 countries participating this year. Each of the countries bring in bands that not only perform over the course of the week-long festival, but also hold workshops for Haitian musicians.

The festival, which ends Saturday, got into full swing over the weekend with three different interpretations of jazz that each moved the audience inside a former sugar cane field turned concert venue. Michels and saxophonist Don Braden shared the stage with U.S.-based Haitian-American jazz artists Willerm Delisfort and Franco-Cameroonian singer-songwriter Sandra Nkaké.

A cross between singer Grace Jones, Lori Andrews and Annie Lennox, the bi-cultural Nkaké had Haitian audiences on their feet with an eclectic, high energy performance that sometimes seem more rock than jazz. Before taking the stage, she said her hope was for the audience "to feel a new encounter."

"When I get on stage, I feel like I'm naked in water," said Nkaké, who enjoyed several encores during the evening before jumping into the audience.

While she sang in English, Nkaké spoke to the audience in French, touching on the roots of her music, which speak to people's struggles and draw on "everyday life."

Asked if her time in Haiti offered any inspirational material for a future album, she said, only time will tell.

"People are nice and simple and I love it," she said. "There are no barriers."

Read more Haiti stories from the Miami Herald

President of the Haitian Senate Simon Desras.


    U.S. lawmakers to Haiti Senate: Vote for election law

    A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers have written to Haitian Senate President Simon Desras calling on Haitian senators to pass the legislation necessary for long overdue elections to take place this year.

A supporter of Haiti's former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide holds up a picture of him, while demonstrating in front of his house during a protest in his support, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Supporters of the former president have been blocking the street in front of his house as the popular former leader faces possible arrest for not providing court-ordered testimony in a criminal investigation.


    Despite election delays, Aristide remains focus

    Defying a judge’s order, opposition leaders in Haiti plan to visit former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was put under house arrest last week as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Haiti's first lady Sophia Martelly, right, talks with Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume in a warehouse housing a donation of kits to treat chikungunya, in the Cite Soleil slum, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. The U.S. medical group Direct Relief donated millions of kits to treat the mosquito-borne virus that has sickened tens of thousands across the Caribbean over the past year.

    Haiti gets help for mosquito-borne virus outbreak

    Haiti has received a large shipment of treatment packets to help it deal with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya amid a rainy season expected to result in a surge of new cases in the country, officials said Wednesday.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category