Great music in Haiti is political. Few successful musicians make music for the sake of music. They are bound to produce something meaningful to the society, seeking its upliftment through their beats and words. The best musicians do this with style and flare. The worst ones mimic what they think is expected of them.
Kanaval is that time of year when invited musicians take to Chan Mars (the streets) to display their talents. The crowd gathers to hear which band said what, how, when and with which instruments. We want to hear the different accents, new vocabulary and the ways politicians and their exploits are exposed. Watching the news can be boring, but listening to Kanaval songs will make you sit up and listen.
Because music is political in Haiti, not all bands are invited to participate in Kanaval. The ban alone leads to some of the best songs ever written on exclusion, freedom of speech, abuse of power and fear of musicians.
But I do believe some bands should not be allowed to participate in Kanaval. As I mentioned, Kanaval is time for the voiceless to hear their aspirations, ideas, dreams for a better Haiti articulated through song and dance. Kanaval is that time when the koudjay (not the band, but the verb) of the “ti neg” is celebrated. And when the people, and the musicians that represent them, fuse on the streets.
But not all musicians can pull this off. Not all musicians can speak for the people. Some songs celebrate the band’s ego and criticize their competitors and warn them that “nou la, nap toujou la,” and that is great on its own. Some musicians however, knowing that they must go beyond stroking their egos, sing the “good” words because they know what is expected, but not because they believe in the messages. I cannot believe that some mulatto bands (they know who they are) want an end to the violence in Haiti. The mixed race and small white and Lebanese elite operate on a “Ayiti kraze” and their class/race in Haiti are only possible if the violence, which they support/protect, continues and thrives. I cannot believe that those musicians are anti politicians exploiting the nation and its people, unless those politicians are anti their class/race. I don’t believe they are tired of the violence; but they know we are.
I don’t know any of those bands personally, but I know the class/race they represent. They have not been silent on their position either; hence why so many Haitians have a love/hate relationship with one particular band. I think some of their regular Konpa songs are good, but when I think of what they represent in Haiti and how their group will only thrive at the benefit of “pitite Soyet” I cannot but think of their Kanaval songs as mocking the Haitian people.
But there is a lesson to be learned in their Kanaval songs and some of the music was good, (instruments, mixing different genres of Haitian music, tempo, etc) especially in 2006. But I think Kanaval should remain sacred and some bands should not be allowed to make a mockery of our hopes, aspirations, and dreams for a better Haiti; especially when they know that Haiti cannot exist if they persist.