Haiti lecture notes


additional musical examples from

Rhythms of Rapture: Sacred Musics of Haitian Vodou, excerpts and PDF liner notes available online.


listen for similarities to African music

q  call & response

q  instrument types

q  instrument functions

q  use and length of rhythmic ideas

q  polyrhythm


Vodou ritual music


note the division of the spirit world into two types or personalities of spirit, with considerable further subdivision (Garland pages 128-131).  Listen to textbook sound example (page 131).  This is from the Rada side of the spirit world; I supplemented that example with an example from the Petro (also spelled Petwo) side, track 17 of the Rhythms of Rapture CD.  Recorded in a studio in Haiti in 1994.  Note the musical differences. 




Music in Latin American Culture: Regional Traditions, John M. Schechter, General Editor; Schirmer Books, 1999.  From Chapter 4, by Gage Averill


Rara is a genre of music, but it is also a season, an event, a procession, a band, and perhaps even a frame of mind.  (page 151)


Beginning with Lent and continuing until the day after Easter, rara season dates back to the colonial era and seems to derive its timing from an old French ritual of a second Carnival held to commemorate the end of Lent, called the Carnaval Carême.  A rara procession makes for an extraordinary spectacle.  At night, the bands are illuminated by kerosene lanterns carried on the heads of a few marchers.  In some areas, vendors may accompany the bands selling candy [and treats such as shaved ice with flavored syrups and cheap sugarcane liquor].  At houses along a route, contributions are often made to the band in the form of cash or refreshments, including... a sweet honey syrup that is said to give the band the stamina to parade through the night.  Celebrants move at a slow pace through the streets, usually with the shuffle motion of the feet, a role of the hips... and sometimes with the arms spread wide or in the air . . . (page 153)


Note that this is by the same author that is a co-author of the Garland Handbook (our textbook) chapter on Haiti.  He makes it sound much more fun in the Schechter book.  He also contributed to the Rhythms of Rapture CD documentation.


Towards popular and contemporary music...


title: Badè; performed by Rara Machine (music group name), recorded in New York City 1994.   Rhythms of Rapture CD track 1.  sung text (excerpts):



The bone, it walks, it walks, it walks (chorus repeats)


The body, it walks it walks, it walks ... chorus repeats

our life is in God's hands

the body, it walks

our life is in God's hands

the bone, it walks

our life is in God's hands


[Ritual syllables]


We want things to change,

we gather the angels,

we call the children,

we call all good people...



title: Konbit Zaka; Boukman Eksperyans (music group name), 1995.   Rhythms of Rapture CD track 9


image of Haiti/DR border showing relative amounts of deforestation


David Meckler

Feb 2010

Cañada College

 MUS 240 Music of the Americas