Last week, an event named “Ayiti Cherie: The Next Chapter,” a celebration of Haitian culture was held at the Diana Event Oval. This was to the delight of Bwog’s sensation, Tamsin Pargiter, who with much elation went to the location for a Haitian vacation to cure her starvation. Here’s the narration:
I arrived at the event on time and hungry, ready to learn about Haitian culture and taste some new food. The event oval was virtually empty, except for some people setting up drums on the stage, and deafening music blasting that was most certainly not Haitian. I eventually found someone who looked like they were in charge, and they jokingly told me that the next time I go to a Haitian event I should arrive at least two hours late. I passed time by looking at the painted masks that were decorating the tables and googling Haitian food to try to stave off my hunger. The room filled up eventually and we got to eat. My meal was limited by my vegetarianism, but I was told that the pork was delicious. I munched on rice, beans, plantains, and a spicy sauce that I totally underestimated, to the amusement of those sitting with me. They also had sparkling peach juice (?!), which disappeared immediately and is definitely my favorite new beverage.
While we were eating, the CFO of Brand-Haiti talked to us about the organization and invited us to participate in their spring break and summer trips to Haiti, which focus on networking with Haitian entrepreneurs. The mission of the organization is to change the narrative of Haiti as a failed state and re-brand it by highlighting all of the country’s strengths and promoting pro-Haitian business investments. After she was finished talking, Walter (the co-president of the Haitian Student Association) asked people in the room to elaborate on why they were proud to be Haitian. People’s answers included the music, food, and “a beautiful nation of men and women who have struggled but will never stop striving to be better.”
Columbia’s very own Latin dance group, Sabor, entered to loud applause and began to salsa. Their dances were full of Shakira-like moves that impressed the crowd and confused my body. Sabor got everyone in the room excited, and left smiling. After Sabor, L’troupe Zetwat took the stage, with four female dancers and two men with tall bongo drums. After a drum solo, the men began singing a sacred Vodou chant and two of the costumed dancers began moving with the music. One of the dancers lost her silken hat while doing something reminiscent of twerking, and smoothly recovered it with another dance move. The next song, also a sacred Vodou chant, was very upbeat and brought a knowing smile to the many people’s faces. The other costumed dancers started dancing, decorated with Mardi Gras beads. The festivity of the song and the grinning of the dancers created a contagious happiness in the room. Soon the dancers were recruiting people from the audience and coercing them to dance, some with obvious embarrassment, some excitedly showing off their moves. L’troupe Zetwat also mentioned that they offer free drum and dance classes every Sunday at their studio in Brooklyn.
Next up was a surprise dance performance from some Sigma
Nu Lambda Beta boys, much to the amusement delight of the crowd. They danced to Pusher Love Girl and Suit and Tie by Justin Timberlake, and finished off dancing to Drake. For all of the hilarity, the dances were actually pretty well choreographed. The next act was by a renowned American-Haitian comedian, who goes by Haitian Jonas. He joked about what it was like growing up in a Haitian family (it’s difficult), how Jamaicans are smooth mofos talkers and will always try to get your girl (Haitian Jonas still likes them though), and how excited his father was about McDonald’s menu (“A dollar menu! Everyone will eat tonight”). After picking on a few members in the audience about their love lives (or lack thereof), Haitian Jonas went back to his seat, to the dismay of the crowd.
Following Haitian Jonas there was a performance by Cruz’ La, an acclaimed Haitian Kompa band. The music was energizing, and made you want to dance. The lyrics were in Haitian Creole, and there were quite a few instruments –including drums, a keyboard, a guitar, and konga drums. There were noticeable influences from other genres, namely R&B, reggae, and rock ‘n’ roll. The group is based in Brooklyn, and performs around the city. By the end of the night, I had a new appreciation for the many different forms of music and dance that are present in Haiti, and I look forward to Ayiti Cherie 2014.