May is Haitian Heritage Cultural Month. And for fans of konpa music, also spelled Compas, it means overloading on Haiti’s homegrown soundtrack as the island-nation’s biggest bands make their way to South Florida for the weekend long partying from Thursday to Monday.
“This is the only event outside of Haiti that really promotes the Haitian flag,” said Rodney Noel, remaining us all that the Haitian Compas Festival, he co-founded with business partner Jean-Michel Cerenord 18 years ago, is more than just a festival.
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“It’s a movement,” he said.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you should check out the movement from Saturday, May 21 at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd.
1. The ‘President of Compas’ is back
With a new album and an autobiography, Michel Martelly a.k.a. ‘Sweet Micky’ is relaunching his music career in the place where he temporarily ended it six years ago to make a run for the presidency —South Florida. And what better place to catch the former Haitian president, who will perform at Cafe Iguana Pines on May 19, than at Compas Fest where he last performed in 2008.
2. Spinning with Michael Brun
Michael Brun has played some of dance music’s biggest stages including the Ultra Music Festival. Now the internationally known DJ and record producer who blends house with his native konpa and rara beats, is bringing his turntable talents to the annual Haitian Flag Day celebration.
3. Ladies first
Her raunchy hip-hop tribute to sun, sand and sex is heating up the local radio airwaves. You can hear Haitian-American artist Steph Lecor, DJ Khaled’s hot new female rapper, drop her debut single “Saturday” live.
4. New digs
Partying on the turf where Haiti once played soccer powerhouse Spain may be cool but what better way to listen to island beats than with your back to the ocean? After two years at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens where last year’s festival drew 18,000 flag-waving fans, Compas Fest returns to Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.
5. Wave your flag
The symbol of Haitian pride and freedom, Haiti’s red and blue bicolor flag has taken on various looks since it was first sewn by Catherine Flon on May 18, 1803 in the city of Arcahaie, north of Port-au-Prince. Expect there to be no shortage of it from prideful fans.
They canceled their appearances at carnival this year, citing Haiti’s political uncertainties, and while things are still not looking up for their homeland, T-Vice and Djkaout #1 are ready to take their ongoing band rivalry center stage.
Speaking of konpa bands, the festival line up also includes Klass, Nu Look, T-Vice, CaRiMi, Kreyol La, Disip, K-Zino and Harmonik as well as top kreyol performers Fantom and Izolan. And if you miss them on stage, you can also catch them at the string of parties before and after the event at a range of clubs between downtown Miami and Boca Raton.
8. Haitian eats
Every Haitian knows that cooking griyo (fried pork) is an art. And there will be no shortage of it and other cuisine from Haiti, Jamaica and Latin America at the festival’s sold-out food booths.
9. Hosts with the most
They are social media sensations, their videos going viral among loyal followers. Comedians Haitian Husbands, Plus Daddy and Success Jr. are this year’s co-hosts, reminding fans what it means to have Haitian parents.
10. More DJs
If nine bands aren’t enough to keep you entertained, add some of Haiti’s top DJs including Tony Mix and Frankie-mix-a-lot to round off the performances.