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Carnival 2013- Ned Sublette from the Field

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Port-au-Prince, Jan. 30. — The 2013 carnival song by RAM was mixed on Sunday afternoon and was being played on the floats on Sunday night.

“Men Bwaw” juxtaposes this year’s carnival theme of yon ayisien, yon pye bwa ann pote kole, which might be roughly translated as “A Tree for Everyone” (in this deforested country) with the Gran Bwa, a lwa of the forest (which is the traditional home of African religion).

There is also, inescapably, a political implication. Carnival songs are often taken as “point songs,” or political allegories, by the Haitian public, and in this case that seems inevitable, given that RAM bandleader / composer Richard Morse resigned from his advisory position in the government headed by his cousin, former konpa star Michel Martelly (known as tet kale, or “bald head”), on December 26.

(Meanwhile, the Haitian government last week announced its third reshuffling of the cabinet, with a number of relative unknowns taking ministerial positions. The headline on the January 28 edition of Haitian newspaper Le Matin read (translated from French): “Tet kale government takes a turn for the right.” Prime minister Laurent Lamothe — also a tet kale — who did the reshuffling, turned up last week at Davos. An interview he did there with the Fox Business Channel is here.)

The lyric of “Men Bwaw”, as I understand it, is something like:

I’m going to the forest / I’m going to ask for judgment / They way they buy spirits / Is the way they buy people / It’s not their money, but they use it to buy people . . .

We’ll unpack this in a forthcoming episode of Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep.

“Men Bwaw” has three distinct musical sections, each with a different rhythm, the third of which is a Haitian take on Congolese soukous. The first live performance of the tune will take place on Thursday (31) at RAM’s Thursday night throwdown at the Hotel Oloffson. There is also a concert the following night with RAM and Boukman Eksperyans.

Here’s an image of Gran Bwa sewn by flagmaker Antonia Morelus [antoniacreation@hotmail.fr], posing with it at her stall in Port-au-Prince’s Iron Market.

 

Ned’s research in Haiti is supported by is supported by a 2012 Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion. The fellowship is a program of the University of Southern California’s Knight Chair in Media and Religion. Afropop Worldwide’s Hip Deep Series, including an upcoming program on Haiti, is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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