Haiti :It’s time for Jazz


Le Nouvelliste | Publié le : 10 janvier 2014

Eight years ago, Port-au-Prince joined the ranks of major cities the world over who infuse their music scenes and boost their economies with major music festivals. The Fondation Haiti Jazz, spearheaded by power couple, Milena Sandler and Joel Widmaier, established the Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, which, in the words of Josette Darguste, Minister of Culture, has become an Institution.

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, the major players that bring us Port-au-Prince’s international jazz festival gathered at Hotel NH Haiti El Rancho to introduce the press to this year’s line-up. Among those behind the table are representatives from 9 Embassies, the European Union, the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the Mayor of Pétion-Ville, the Minister of Culture, and of course, Joel Widmaier and Milena Sandler, President and Executive Director of Fondation Haiti Jazz respectively.
Milena begins with an introduction of the Festival. For the third year in a row, jazzfest will travel to the provinces, this year to Cap-Haitien on January 17th. Then from the 18th to the 25th, concerts will take place at major venues throughout the capital each night. Paying concerts in the early evening, then cover-free after-hours (that lend themselves to lively jam sessions). Tickets for each event (800 gourdes) or passes for the entire festival (2,200 gourdes) can be obtained at Radio Métropole, La Pléiade, Parc Historique de la Canne à Sucre, and El Rancho.
Next, Joel delightedly introduces each of the persons of interest from the embassies and organizations, who in turn describe the musical acts who will participate in the week of musical revelry.
Klaus Peter Schick, Ambassador of Germany to Haiti, informs that Germany is bringing Jochen Rückert, a drummer hailing from the Ambassador’s home province, who will play innovative jazz infused with rock and electronica in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. From the U.S. Embassy, the New Orleans-based, Soul Rebels will offer us their infectious mix of jazz and hip-hop. From France, (among two other acts) Haiti will receive the family-phenom, Swing Brosse System, consisting of two musical parents and their four musical children. The Chilean Embassy will bring us the Angel Parra Trio. A quick Youtube search of the Chilean group prior to the press conference rewarded this reporter with the fun tune, ‘Esperarme’ -upbeat, definitely jazzy, with traditional South American elements. Other great tunes from among the international participants of this year’s festival include, Sandra N’kake’s (Cameroon) ‘Like a Buffalo’ and ‘Higher’. Her powerful voice and soulful lyrics combine with subtle accompaniment. Then Bwakoré’s (Martinique) ‘Bwa Brilé’ delivers unique flute solos and poignant Kreyòl lyrics.
During the question and answer session, Widmaier shares that 15 local acts ranging from rara bands to pianists will be showcased. He explains that while several have graced the Festival’s stages before, many are new. Some of those returning, such as James Germaine and Réginald Policard, have albums that have just come out, or will be released soon. All together, during the Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, 25 groups representing 13 different countries will bless the city with an eclectic buffet of sound. In addition to the influx of music, the Festival organizers note that it also boosts the economy and exposes a diverse audience to the wonders of the country. Nearing the end of the conference, Sandler and Maryse Noel, General Director of the Ministry of Tourism, explain that the musicians as well as international media outlets will have the chance to visit La Citadelle, Marché en Fer, la Côte des Arcadins during their stay. A complete schedule of events for the 8th Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, including daily workshops, nightly concerts, and after-hours events, can be found at papjazzhaiti.org.
By Angela Galbreath
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