TORONTO -- It was spring when Arcade Fire -- months from a stunning Grammy Award win for album of the year, which pretty much certified the Montreal band had climbed to the highest of rock's craggy peaks -- went down to Haiti and got upstaged. They were in Cange, a lush remote village positioned on the edge of Lake Peligre. They were there primarily to visit sites where Partners in Health was working to help in the aftermath of 's catastrophic earthquake. But they also played a couple shows -- mostly tossing off cover songs -- as an opener for the rasin Haitian roots music band Ram. And it was out of control and amazing -- not like, out of control like someone on coke was stabbing someone in the eye with a pen or anything. But out of control like six-year-olds and year-olds were dancing and old ladies on crutches and stuff. And we were like, oh, it would be nice to be able to go to rural Haiti and play a show that people would really dance to.
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Since , Haiti has offered the world a uniquely danceable and infectiously sexy music known as compas , konpa , and kompa. The Kreyol language has only been standardized in written form since , so there are several ways to spell everything. But what has hindered Kreyol's literal documentation has strengthened its oral tradition and imbued its speech patterns with a rhythmic musicality all their own. The Haitian cultural traditions of playful double entendres, shifting shades of meaning, and colorful aphorisms charge its music with a literary quality that highlight its rhythmic fervor. Compa's origins date back to the s, when Afro-Caribbean and European musical elements came together in popular dance. And at least half of them will be tourists. We here at Crossfade caught up with longtime organizer Mr.
Credit Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery. Credit Mara Sanchez Renero. Credit Andras Bankuti. Growing up in Italy as the child of a Dutch mother and a Canadian father, Paolo Woods was fascinated by the notion of the state. How does where you live, and how you live, shape individual and national identity? To find out, he moved to a country most often described as anything but a state: Haiti. Who takes the place of the state? How is society organized and how does it reorganize on the corpse of a failed state? Instead, he has found a series of quiet, even ordinary, scenes that add up to a layered portrait of a complicated place. Would-be saviors and so-called experts seem lost and spouting nonsense, while seen-it-all Haitians note the absurdities playing out before them.
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