Haitian Diaspora

By Joseph Moreau


Haiti or the Republic of Haiti and is found on the island called Hispaniola. Haiti is the western hemisphere’s poorest nation. Haiti is a mix between predominately blacks and mallato’s. Haiti is histories first black republic. About 50 percent of Haitians practice some type of vodou. Roman Catholicism is about 85 percent and the most common religion on the country. Because of the inconsistency in the percentage of religion, a lot of people believe that vodou is not a religion but a practice that is involved with Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti but vodou might be its national religion. Vodoun religion is expressed by a lot of drumming, dancing, and song and believed to connect people with spirits and protection from evil. Just like Haiti’s religious influences, its music is influenced by the same African roots.

Miami metropolitan region is the largest Haitian Diaspora in the world that is known as “little Haiti” consisting of Haitians and Haitian Americans. Haitians have been pouring into this area since the 1970’s seeking substantial government and job opportunities. One recent major catastrophe that shook the Haitian world was the earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010 which was the strongest since 1770 according to the USGS. Since there are so many Haitians in Miami, after the earthquake in January 2010, an article written by Nate Berg said, “The catastrophe in Haiti feels like a local experience in Miami.” This shows how strong the Haitian influence in Miami and Little Haiti is and how the roots of Haitian culture in the US are in Miami.

Haitian music has influences from all over the world. At times music like twoubadou had influences from the United States and Cuba. Compas is another kind of Haitian music that was prevalent in the mid 1900’s. Haiti has gone through different musical phases just like every other country. Rock and roll and jazz had prominent roles in the music of the country in the 1900’s. Rap, reggae, and R&B have come to the surface through the Fugees and Wyclef Jean. Wyclef jean was originally a member of the Fugees and then pursued his own career as a musician, producer, and politician. He is currently in the race for president of the country. One of the most popular music festivals revolving around Haitian culture is the Festival Mizik Jakmel, which is held at the center of culture in Jacmel. This diverse festival lasts three days and hosts some of the most popular reggae and Haitian artists in the Carribbean.

After this time the main influences were American Jazz and African highlife. At one point the government was trying to limit the influence on vodou practices which caused the Haitian people to be more proud of their cultural roots. The vodou practices were from Haiti’s African roots and after the government failed to remove the practices, it was obvious that they would never completely diminish. Rara is the voudo influenced music that is more of a festival style and is most commonly played during easter.

Instruments, singing, dancing, and influences. The instruments of Haitian music come from European and African roots. Due to the poverty in the country, instruments are not complex and can be easily handmade. From violins and other string instruments to a simple drum. The Haitian drum is called the Tambou in creole, the drum originated from Africa. According to this article by Celine Elveus, it says that the Haitian people wanted to learn other music so they explored melodies from the Dominican Republic which is also found on the same island, Hispaniola. Compas is the main music played by Haitians and was discovered by Nemours Jean Baptiste. He was not impressed with the way that the Haitian music was headed and this Haitian style. He wanted to focus music on the drum and created compas. Baptiste sprinkled in a little flavor of Cuban and Dominican to his artistic style of music that would become one of the most famous in Haitian culture.

McAlister, E. A. (2002). Rara!: Vodou, power, and performance in Haiti and its diaspora. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Catanese, A. V. (1999). Haitians: Migration and diaspora. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press.

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