From the Research Corner

[Note:  Makandal’s work, like all projects in folklore, dances ploge (intimately) with research.  This entry will engage the reader with some intriguing questions on representing Haitian music.]


From Doctor Lois:Easter_140420_Closeup

So a publisher has asked me to write an encyclopedia entry on Haitian music in history, geography, and culture. That should be easy for someone who has published a book and myriad essays on the subject, right? Look again. “Music in history.” I certainly know something about Haitian music of the present, and I’ve listened to recordings going back to the 1930s. But what do I really know of…let’s say, the music of Vodou in the nineteenth century?

In the absence of recordings and transcriptions, what can I assume about the elasticity of those transcendent vibes we call drumming? Can I take for granted that the precious gems we call Vodou songs were cut and polished in Africa and resisted more than a century of travel, curiosity, and the spirit of creativity?

To capture and represent Haitian music in history, maybe I can make comparisons with the musical styles of the places Haitians’ ancestors were born in. Would that work? Why or why not? (Remember that the African slave trade ended in Haiti in 1791.) Perhaps I can study some of the detailed historical descriptions of the dances to theorize how much the dance music has changed, or as little. But…do music and dance evolve at the same speed? If they evolve at all? Some believe that folk traditions are frozen in time, like the little air bubbles in ice that tell us how much carbon the atmosphere held in pre-historic times.

What’s at stake in these ruminations? The answer is nothing less than how the world sees the creative heritage of Haiti: as a museum or as a vibrant and saucy player in the ongoing history of the world. I’ll stop writing and wait for your thoughts and feelings.

About makandal1758

Makandal channels multiple media to educate and enlighten the public about Haiti, the Haitian diaspora, and all those touched by the rich legacy of Haiti. The company's activities include research, archiving, theatrical productions, and the promotion of artists.
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3 Responses to From the Research Corner

  1. Margaret Fequiere says:

    I love this Lois. These are some really great questions that i don’t really know the answers to but I would imagine folk traditions are not necessarily frozen in time. Each generation probably added their own twist. I also see the Haitian creative heritage as both, a moving image museum that does add its own vibrant saucy style in the ongoing history of the world. Should you chose to make a comparison, you may find a lot of commonalities and yet differences. — Stromae, Buyu Ambroise and others might help give you a sense of how the traditional styles have evolved. I also imagined the historical descriptions of the dances might be rather difficult to come with an authenticated description of the traditional.



  2. makandal1758 says:

    I love the moving museum! In the essay, I wrote about commonalities and differences, for instance, music of the Rada rite in Haiti adopted some features of West African drumming and dropped others. We can see and hear that. A hundred years from now, it will likely be different again.


  3. Matt says:

    I like the post Louis. Good questions indeed. I hope your write more.



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