Haitian Carnival

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Haitian Carnival is a celebration held over several weeks each year leading up to Mardi Gras. Haitian Defile Kanaval is the Haitian Creole name of the main annual Mardi Gras carnival held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The parade is known in Creole as "defile". Haiti's largest annual carnival is held in the capitol and largest city, Port-au-Prince, with smaller celebrations taking part simultaneously in Jacmel, Aux Cayes, and other locations in Haiti. The annual Kanaval celebrations coincide with other Mardi Gras carnivals around the world.

Haiti also has smaller carnival celebrations during the year that are separate from the main Kanaval. These include Rara, a series of processions taking place during the Catholic Lent season, that has bands and parades like the larger main Kanaval, and also an annual Kanaval de Fleur that takes place in July.

Kanaval[edit]

Kanaval 'Royalty' in Port-au-Prince

Port-au-Prince's annual Kanaval is one of the largest Mardi Gras carnivals in the Caribbean and North America. The celebrations are funded by the government, businesses and wealthy Haitian families.[1] Carnival in Haiti is also known as Kanaval. Haiti's version of carnival season always starts in January, known as 'Pre-Kanaval', and the main carnival begins in February each year. Kanaval celebrations end on Mardi Gras, which is French for 'Fat Tuesday', also known as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before the Roman Catholic holiday known as Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a somber period of fasting and penance that precedes Easter for Catholics.

The first Mardi Gras celebrations in Europe were a carnivalesque opportunity for people to indulge themselves, celebrate, and even subvert authority in a permissible way, as part of the party. Mardi Gras enabled people to enjoy the pleasures of life before the beginning of the Catholic Lent season, a period of 56 years and nights of fasting and penance leading up to Easter. The Catholic festival was imported to Haiti and elsewhere in the Americas during European settlement. In Haiti, Kanaval is also heavily influenced by local customs, such as Vodou religious rituals, and Haitian music.

The Kanaval is celebrated with music, bands and parades. Parades have floats, sometimes with children participating in the celebrations. The floats typically have sound systems set up on trucks to play music to the crowds. Food stands selling barbecued treats and rum are a popular part of celebrations. There are also comedy plays put on by the Kanaval participants, often satirizing political topics. Revellers wear masks and costumes, as they do at other carnival celebrations in the Caribbean, North America, and Central and South America. The parades makes their way through the streets of Port-au-Prince and end with celebrations at the large plaza Champ De Mars, located across from the Palais national (National Palace), the former residence of Haiti's president.

Music is central to Kanaval. Musicians perform zouk, Haitian rap, konpa dirèk (Compas), and mizik rasin. Kanaval is the largest annual event where bands can gain more public exposure and it provides the opportunity to perform at large concerts. Popular konpa bands participate in Kanaval, such as T-Vice, Djakout #1, Sweet Micky also known as the new president of Haiti Michel Martelly, Kreyol La, D.P. Express, Mizik Mizik, Ram, T-Micky, Carimi, and Scorpio Fever who perform for dancers in the streets of Champ De Mars. In Haiti there are also competitions between some bands, like T-Vice, Djakout #1, Kreyol La, and Krezi Mizik.

Every year, tourists travel to Haiti's Kanaval to enjoy it.

History[edit]

Kanaval masks made of papier-mâché being prepared in Jacmel, 2002.

The large official public celebration of carnival in Haiti started in 1804 in the capitol of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

Kanaval celebrations were traditionally considered "sinful" to Protestant Haitians, who were advised by their ministers not to participate. The Kanaval celebrations were criticized for condoning sexually-suggestive dancing, profanity-filled plays, music lyrics mocking authority, and Vodou and konpa music rhythms.[2]

Kanaval celebrations were greatly curtailed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, although they still took place on a much-reduced scale, with only one quarter of the usual budget. There was disagreement among Haitians about whether or not it was appropriate to have Kanaval at all in early 2011. The 2011 Kanaval featured many costumed performers satirizing darker themes than usual, such as the post-earthquake cholera epidemic and the need for humanitarian relief.[3] In 2012, Kanaval was held on a larger scale and was a success.

Creole Kanaval expressions[edit]

Haitian Creole, based on French, African, and Caribbean vocabulary, has a variety of expressions associated with Kanaval celebrations. Kanaval celebrations give revelers an opportunity to throw away their inhibitions, and the expressions encourage this:[4]

  • lage ko'w: 'let go of yourself'
  • mete menn' anlè: 'put your hands in the air'
  • balanse: 'sway'
  • bobinen: 'spin'
  • souke: 'shake'
  • sote: 'jump up'
  • gouye: 'grind your hips'
  • vole: 'jump up'

Musicians from the Haitian diaspora in New York City and elsewhere often return to Haiti to perform at Kanaval.

There are also one-on-one fights between young men during Kanaval. These are called gagann. Combatants are surrounded by a semi-circle of supporters.[5]

Rara[edit]

Haiti has a unique traditional carnival, Rara, that is separate from the main pre-Lent Kanaval celebrations. Rara processions take place during the day and sometimes at night during Lent, then culminate in a week-long celebration that takes place at the end of Lent, during the Catholic 'Holy Week', which includes the Easter holiday. Rara has its roots in Haiti's an deyò areas, the rural areas around Port-au-Prince. It is based on peasant Easter celebration customs. Rara celebrations include parades with musicians playing drums, tin trumpets, bamboo horns called vaksens, and other instruments. Parades also include dancers and costumed characters such as Queens (called renns), Presidents, Colonels, and other representatives of a complex rara band hierarchy, similar to the krewe organization of New Orleans Mardi Gras bands.[6]

Rara is called "Vodou taken on the road" by Haitians.[7] Processions of female dancers follow male Vodou religious leaders, accompanied by drummers and vaksen bands, stopping at crossroads, cemeteries, and the homes of community leaders. Rara rituals are public acknowledgements of the power of local "big men" in the communities. Money is given to the leaders of rara organizations and communities during processions. The incorporation of military costumes and dance steps in rara processions is also an acknowledgement of the community hierarchy, and the folk belief that Vodou rituals, including rara, supported the success of the Haitian Revolution, and the continued well-being of Haiti. Rara band members believe that they have made a contract with spirits, and must perform for seven years, otherwise adversity will result.[8]

Carnaval des Fleurs[edit]

In the Summer, during July, Haiti has another carnival called Carnaval des Fleurs (Flower Carnival). Kanaval de Fleur is scheduled to be held July 29–31, 2012, following the success of the main Kanaval in the Spring. Kanaval de Fleur includes popular local 'konpa dirèk' bands.

Koudyay[edit]

Koudyay is a type of spontaneous celebration in Haiti, similar to a carnival celebration. During Haiti's years under the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier, the government sponsored koudyaye festivities as a means to distract the people of Haiti from economic and political problems, and to give a limited, sanctioned way for people to release frustrations and avert rioting.[9]

Konpa Kanaval bands[edit]

Kanaval is an important event for Haitian musicians. Music styles created in Haiti have an opportunity to expand their audience by performing for Kanaval crowds. The most popular style of music at the recent Kanaval is compas, also known as compas direct in French, or konpa dirèk in Creole or simply konpa. It is often incorrectly spelled as kompa when translating from French to Haitian Creole, as there is no m in front of a b or p like in French and some other languages and therefore an n is used instead.[10]

Kreyol La[edit]

Kreyol La is the third most popular band behind T-Vice and Djakout in Haiti's Kanaval. Each year the Band is in a competition with the rival Krezi Mizik, also known as Nou Krezi. In 2007, Kreyol La win their first victory over Krezi and had a better meringue Kanaval than Krezi that year. In 2009 they won again over Krezi. In 2012, Kreyol La was declared the third champion band in Kanaval, and won twice from the group band Krezi. It was stated that Kreyol La and T-Vice will finally be rivals in Kanaval but T-Vice will always be rivals with Djakout #1. The Band was once named a successor konpa dirèk band, to one called Konpa Kreyòl, by David Dupoux who was once part of the band during Konpa Kreyòl era. Kreyol La is a similar band of their rival Krezi Mizik. Kreyol La is also similar to the group Konpa Dirèk, T-Vice and D.P. Express.

T-Vice[edit]

T-Vice is the second best konpa Band in Kanaval behind D.P. Express. Djakout has been one of their main rivals since 2002. T-Vice was past rival with Sweet Micky, Konpa Kreyòl and Carimi. T-Vice is a similar band to Top Vice and Scorpio Fever which was Roberto and Reynaldo Martino fathers band in the early 1970s through the late 1990s. T-Vice is also similar to Konpa Kreyòl/Kreyol La, Sweet Micky and Carimi, but was a rival with all three of those bands. Since 1999 T-Vice was the most popular band in the Labor Day Carnival at New York to represent as a Haitian Band. T-Vice was declared the King of Eastern Parkway in the Labor Day Carnival 2009, as they had the largest number of people following their float. In 2011 the band did not participate in the Labor Day Carnival. T-Vice was the only Haitian band that was going to participate but had problems with their sound system and could not participate.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Braziel, Jana Evans (2008). Artists, Performers, and Black Masculinity in the Haitian Diaspora. Indiana University Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780253219787. 
  2. ^ Louis, Jr., Bertin Magloire (2008). Protestant Or Christian: Symbolic Boundaries and Long-distance Nationalism Among Protestant Haitians in Nassau, Bahamas. Washington University in St. Louis, ProQuest. p. 239. ISBN 9780549839064. 
  3. ^ Gaestel, Allyn (March 9, 2011). "Carnival returns to Haiti, with some darker themes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ Louis, Jr., Bertin Magloire (2008). Protestant Or Christian: Symbolic Boundaries and Long-distance Nationalism Among Protestant Haitians in Nassau, Bahamas. Washington University in St. Louis, ProQuest. p. 239. ISBN 9780549839064. 
  5. ^ Louis, Jr., Bertin Magloire (2008). Protestant Or Christian: Symbolic Boundaries and Long-distance Nationalism Among Protestant Haitians in Nassau, Bahamas. Washington University in St. Louis, ProQuest. p. 239. ISBN 9780549839064. 
  6. ^ Braziel, Jana Evans (2008). Artists, Performers, and Black Masculinity in the Haitian Diaspora. Indiana University Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780253219787. 
  7. ^ Daniel, Yvonne (2011). Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship. University of Illinois Press. p. 120. ISBN 9780252078262. 
  8. ^ Daniel, Yvonne (2011). Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship. University of Illinois Press. pp. 121–2. ISBN 9780252078262. 
  9. ^ Daniel, Yvonne (2011). Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship. University of Illinois Press. p. 122. ISBN 9780252078262. 
  10. ^ "Haitian Creole-English Dictionary with Basic English-Haitian Creole Appendix". Retrieved 6 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

  • Photos of 2012 post-earthquake Kanaval:[1]