Music and dance are essential parts of Haiti’s history, tradition and culture. The foundation of Haitian music and dance can be found in the country’s African roots, particularly in the rhythmic drums; music also has elements that reflect both French and Spanish elements from periods of occupation. When Africans were taken to Haiti as slaves, they brought with them rituals and traditions including songs and dances. Today, these traditions remain sacred and social art forms.
Compas music, or Kompa in Haitian Creole, is a widely popular music with both European and African roots. This style of music was created in 1955 by Nemours Jean-Baptiste – a Haitian saxophonist, writer and band leader. A two step dance style quickly accompanied the music – called konpa direk. Similar to meringue but with a slower tempo, a dance style also popular in Haiti, konpa direk is danced in pairs or solo and most moves are made with the hips. When visiting Haiti, travelers are immediately introduced to Kompa as you exit your airplane and enter the airport in Port au Prince while passing a small Kompa band welcoming you to “Ayati”. Former President Michel Martelly (2011-2016) has often been credited as a pioneer of Compas; “Sweet Micky” as President Martelly was known, used his status as a musician and held musical rallies called “koudjay” to draw crowds and media attention to his Presidential campaign.
During the annual Carnival music and dancing fill the streets. Discos/nightclubs are very popular in Haiti among the youth. And, music and dancing are also important to religions in Haiti.
Our D2C children have been taking dance classes for years in order to learn about their history and culture and gain the self-esteem that comes from learning a new skill/talent. Stayed tuned as our next blog will be an interview with the kids’ dance teacher Aurel.