Haiti & France- Cultural Comparison Of Government And Music

by Robert Johnson


Types of Governments

a. Haiti- The government of Haiti is a semi-presidential republic, meaning the president and the prime minister are both active participants in day-to-day duties. The president is elected by popular vote, and the prime minister is chosen by the president. 

b. France- The French government is also a semi-presidential republic. The president is also elected by popular vote, and the president also chooses the prime minister.

Both the governments of France and Haiti are unitary semi-presidential republics. This means that the central government is supreme, and all other branches exercise powers that the central government chooses to grant it.
ii. Have multiple political parties
iii. In both Haiti and France, voting begins at age 18.
iv. Haiti is a government marked by corruption. Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to successfully undergo a slave revolution. Oppressive dictators have negatively affected the nation.

Influence of Culture and Events on Government and Laws

Cultural movements resulting in the addition or removal of laws


France- The French hip-hop scene has been very vocal in terms of the hardships associated with lower class French society. The government has not been responsive, even blaming the artists for violence resulting from their lyrics.

ii. Haiti- As with France, the Haitian music scene is also very vocal in expressing injustice. With the slave revolution almost in 1791, music among them surely inspired change. In present day Haiti, the government is unresponsive to change, as seen by the oppression. Much of music today calls for a revolution against the government.


Wyclef Jean, a famous rapper, attempted to run for president yet was found ineligible.

b. Outside factors resulting in a change in government

i. Haiti- In the late 1700s, the white slaveholders began passing legislation that set restrictions on other groups until a rigid caste system was defined. The island where Haiti sits was the most profitable colony the French owned, producing a large supply of the world’s coffee and sugar. The French Revolution gave the black slaves, who outnumbered the white slave owners 10 to 1, the spark needed to successfully revolt. In 1974, slavery was abolished and civil and political rights were granted to all black men in French colonies.
c. Effort to preserve tradition

i. Both Haiti and France have very rich tradition that has been preserved. For example, in Haiti, Lakous are rurual communities that preserve and practice Voodoo. In France, their food culture is preserved through programs of “taste acquisition” in their public schools.

Censorship/ Freedom of Expression

As we have seen though the history of Haiti as a French colony until it became a Republic, different forms of government react differently to music. Protest songs during times of tyranny or authoritarian control with fear and power were condemned. People who spoke out against the government feared repercussions because the government did not have legitimate authority or abide by a set of rules and guidelines. Democratic forms of government have officials elected by the people. Laws govern both the government and its people, allowing music a protection from government intervention. In a democratic society, the sate does not rely on power, fear, or censorship to control the people. People are allowed to voice dissent and challenge the government through law abiding means. Music can be used as an unrestricted form of political expression, as we have seen occur in both Haiti and France. It lets the government know what the people believe and identify as problems in their society.

i. In Contemporary society, neither the French nor the Haitian government censor music. Although, in France, the government has blamed problems on hip-hop lyrics; In Haiti, Wyclef Jean claims that he wasn’t eligible for presidential election due to corruption.
Comparison of evolution of musical styles in Haiti to that of France
I Origin of musical styles

a. Why music was utilized
i. Haiti- Rara has strong ties to the voodoo religion. It is performed between Ash Wednesday and Easter, and involves male and female priests.
ii. France- French music dates back to the 10th century, when songs about chivalry and courtly love were composed. The French Renaissance, French music experienced growth.
b. Types of musical styles

i. Haiti- Rara, mizik rasin, kompa, mini-jazz, Haitian rap.
ii. France- Classical music, folk music, hip-hop, tencho/funk, zouk, pop.

Factors that caused Music to Evolve

a. Political, cultural, religious motives

i. In both countries, music evolved into protest music as a call for change.


In France, protest music is a result of poverty and injustice and calls for reform.


Haiti’s protest music sprung up to more extreme forms of the same causes, and calls for revolution.

Meaning and/or Messages conveyed in Musical Styles

a. Reoccurring messages in music
i. France- Recurring messages in French protest music include social and political injustices. The environment of growing up in rent-controlled housing is repeated.

ii. Haiti- The recurring message in Haitian music is one more deeply rooted in anger. Haitian protest music repeatedly refers to slavery and shackles.
Comparison of effect of music on government in Haiti to that of France
I Government reaction to music with a message

i. Haiti- Famous hip-hop artist, Wyclef Jean, was ruled ineligible for the presidential election on the grounds that he wasn’t a citizen of Haiti.

ii. France- The French government has repeatedly blamed hip-hop lyrics as the cause of violence. In 2005, around 200 members of the French Parliament place the blame on French hip-hop artists for promoting “violence and racism in the suburban riots”. In 2009, French rapper Orelsan was removed from a festival due to the opinion that his lyrics promote violence.

Response of Artists to Government’s Actions

i. Haiti- There was speculation by some that Wyclef Jean wasn’t fit for the Haitian presidency due to the fact that he spoke shaky Creole. In response, Jean released a music video, in Creole, called “Protest”. In it, Jean claims that, due to him being ineligible, it is the youth that lost.

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