In this short film, Sounds of Solidarity, THUMP travels to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to learn more about how a homegrown EDM movement is sprouting out of the country’s vibrant history of music, dance, and all-night parties. Only four years after the catostrophic earthquake that killed 200,000 Haitians and left another 300,000 without a home, we witness a country that is still very much in recovery-and for many, music provides a momentary escape from the trials of everyday life. Over the course of 20 minutes, we get a crash course in the wildly complex history of Haitian music, leading up to rise of the country’s many shades of contemporary dance music.
To make everything a bit easier, we thought we’d break down a few of the keywords mentioned in the film-and you can keep your head from spinning off as you try to take it all in.
Rara is festival music! At the center of a rara ensemble is a set of bamboo or metal trumpets called vaksen, which are accompanied by various drums, percussion, and homemade instruments made from recycled items like coffee cans. You’re most likely to hear rara in street processions and parades during Easter Week celebrations, and its history stretches back to the country’s earliest colonial periods.
Rasin is voodoo heavy metal. “Racine” means roots in French, and the genre is named as such because it reaches back to the tradition of vodou ceremonies and folklore. It incorporates indigenous instruments like rara horns and petwo drums into modern hard rock songs. Developed in the late 80s, its lyrical themes include political critique and social commentary alongside the themes of traditional
vodou‘s sacred oral tradition.
Rabudai is “very fast-paced, like sped-up dancehall-a very provocative style of music,” says Gilles Malval, a Haitian DJ and promoter. Rhythmically it’s similar to soca music, a high-energy style of carnival music from Trinidad, Tobago, and other West Indian islands. It’s electronically arranged and popular with the young folks in Haiti! Compas, or compas-direct in French, is a modern, slowed-down form of the Haitian traditional style méringue. which fuses Afro-diasporic rhythms and European ballroom dance styles from the early colonial period. Popularized by Haitian saxophonist Nemours Jean Baptiste in the 1950s, compas is constantly changing and incorporating new influences, though the persistent, straight-ahead drum arrangements make it easy for everyone to dance to. It’s often compared to zouk music from Guadalupe and Martinique.