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Haiti, Stand Up

Mum's the word at the first Singers of Haiti concert and idol competition held this Saturday in honor of Haitian Mother's Day and Haitian Heritage Month. That's right — mum as in the mamas that gave these artists the great vocal cords, and mum as in the mother country that infused those voices with gospel and compas music as well as a knack for mixing it all together into newer, fresher infusions.

Hosted by the Global Haitian Broadcasting Network's popular radio show Bon Soir La Vie, 16 men and women ranging in age from 18 to 35 will compete for a recording contract with Broward's Tendresse Productions and an opportunity to collaborate with superstars of all nationalities in South Florida's music industry. The young artists, who made it into the competition with recordings of their own songs, will each be asked to perform their tune as well as a Haitian classic, which in most cases will venerate their mothers.

"The idea is to familiarize [the contestants] with the culture, because we have a lot of young Haitians who are born here, and they don't know their own culture," says the program's marketing coordinator, Villy Choute.

That said, contestant Ephinae, 27, looks forward to showing the Haitian community how to listen outside the box. During the competition, the smooth R&B singer says she will interpret her own Creole-English version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" à la Toni Braxton.

"I think it's just giving young people an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns lyrically within the Haitian community," says the Orlando resident, who was born to Haitian parents in New Jersey. "We're so stuck on compas that we don't give the young people an opportunity to perform in their own way."

In between the contestants' vibrant numbers, an array of well-known Haitian artists including Jean-Jean Roosevelt, Tines Salvan, Tantan, Reginald Cange, Richie, Julien Janvier, Mecca a.k.a. Grimo, Farah Juste, Nirva Pierre, Andre Fouad, James Salsa, Dieudonne Larose, Jean Levelt Vital, Black Parents, Papa Pierre and Group Suav, will take to the stage to showcase the songs that made them famous throughout the Haitian Diaspora. Supremacy, South Florida's a cappella gospel band, will open the evening with original-language renditions of the Haitian and American anthems; then Canada-based Black Parents will share the warmth of compas that's stolen the hearts of northerners, and funk-infused Creole pop artist Jean-Jean Roosevelt, currently one of Haiti's most popular young voices, will consider the plight of Haitian women. Finally, Haitian rapper Mecca a.k.a. Grimo, best-known for his collaborations with Haitian-American artist Wyclef Jean, drives home the main message: praise and respect to Mama Haiti.

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Julienne Gage is a Miami-based anthropologist and journalist who has worked as a reporter and as a civil rights and international aid communications specialist in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Her fieldwork has exposed her to many forms of cultural expression, and during her master’s in anthropology, she studied at Cuba’s Center for the Investigation and Development of Cuban Music.
Contact: Julienne Gage