David Katznelson, our producer, asked how I got involved in Haiti; probably the question I’ve been asked most over the last twenty plus years. After working for some years as a tenant organizer in low income housing projects and then driving a tractor for an apple orchard – all the while I was playing Irish and Latin music – I went back to school to get a BA in ethnomusicology in the early 1980s, and that led to a grant to pursue graduate studies. For a class assignment I analyzed the music of rara bands in Haiti, and became interested in pursuing rara as a dissertation subject. But my research grant to study rara in Haiti in 1986 was put on hold by the Fulbright Fellowships when the rebellion against the Duvalier dictatorship broke out. So my back-up project became a study of Haitian popular music, which would let me work primarily in the urban areas of Haiti. I left first for the Haitian community of Miami and then Haiti in 1987. I began a side career as a journalist of Haitian music, and wrote the column Haitian Fascination for 8 years in The Beat Magazine, but I also continued my research, traveling between Haiti and the overseas Haitian communities for much of a decade. Over the time that I’ve worked in Haiti, I’ve been an election observer for the Organization of American States, organized festivals, prepared radio shows, written liner notes for a score of albums. I’ve marched in a band at carnaval, played with rara groups, gigged with konpa bands, attended week-long Vodou ceremonies, and traveled over much of Haiti from Cap Haïtien to Pestel in the Southwest. My engagement with Haitian music and with so many generous and patient Haitian friends and colleagues has inspired me and transformed me in profound ways.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Road To Haiti by Gage Averill
Gage Averill is a professor of history and culture at the University Of Toronto. He is the premier scholar on Haiti and the person responsible for curating the ALAN LOMAX IN HAITI music portion of the ALAN LOMAX IN HAITI boxset, writing the notes, and translating many of the songs. He will be talking on FORUM this morning, KQED radio, at 10 am PST....