I have no memories of my birthplace, but there is a connection that I can’t really explain. My mother, however, remembers many things about Haiti and she even speaks the language of creole. In her words:
Ki Jann nou ye menmm??
When I think of Haiti, Karim’s birthplace, too many images, sounds, flavours and memories come flooding into my mind and heart – it’s impossible to capture them in a few paragraphs. Someone who writes well could do that! But, when I think about Karim as a ti tonton, a little guy, mezanmi, what a cutie!
A few things I remember immediately. It was soooo hot He used to run around with no shirt, just a diaper on! Once he figured out how to do it, he might have been not quite two years old then, speaking Creole, and French and English, he would open the door of the refrigerator, and just stand there, soaking up the coolness. (That might explain a few things – he seems to still like to stand with the fridge door open – and often!)
And, before he started to go to preschool, the house wouLd be quiet, I would come looking for him, so many times. If not in the fridge, he would just be sitting on the steps of the back patio, watching the wind playing with the treetops. It wasn’t always quiet and peaceful, in fact usually there was music playing, often the radios of the neighbourhood loud and bustling, sharing the news, and the latest songs. If it was carnival season, we might hear a band rehearsing in our neighbourhood, or see a rara band. When we lived in the country especially, we would hear voodoo drums, but always, there was music, and a lot of it. And the kind that made you want to dance. Lots of music too at feasts and Holy Day celebrations, with lots of singing and at least one drum!
The music that ran most freely though, and consistently, was the deep bass rhythm of daily life and culture, filled with beans on the stove, salted fish and plantains, a life of sweetness and survival, honour and respect, courtesy and determination, a regular mingling of joy and sorrow, tempered by patience and faith – a place that was fully alive. Some of the music that Karim would have heard as a baby – Tabou Combo (aux Antilles), some Boukman Experyans (Kem pa Sote, Pwozon Rat). ITunes has them. Boukman Ginen came later, but you need only hear Edem Chante to get a taste of the spirit of the place…
What a trip it would be to return, and show the ti tonton his birthplace. There’s a saying in Creole that says you’re heading home…Karim and I need to “fe chemin lakay”…
When I saw the news about the earthquake in Haiti, my heart sank and I was brought to tears immediately. When I arrived to JC’s house, I think we both knew what was about to happen…we made a song capturing the feeling of wanting to help those in need and not knowing how.
The video showcases the incredible music and soul of Haiti. Our song is called ‘Broken Land’ (not a Haitian vibe at all).