It's carnival season; that time of the year when things get topsy-turvy, and the poor man has his day. All over the world people are celebrating with music, costumes, floats, dancing and generally rowdy behavior.
But hey, there's always a good reason to party, and when I caught the Haitian band RAM at GlobalFEST one scant year after the earthquake that all but leveled Port Au Prince, they turned in an ebullient set and had the crowd bouncing up and down. The band is named for its founder Richard A. Morse, who came to the island from the USA and became entranced by its culture. Taking over management of the crumbling Hotel Oloffson, he put together a house band in 1990, which morphed into RAM, and which became famous for its regular Thursday night performances. Over the ensuing years the band, Morse and his wife, lead singer Lunise, have had their share of close calls negotiating the minefield that is Haitian political history. Through it all, the band has played in defense of human rights, and only stopped to take a break during election season. (The quake only slightly damaged the hotel, and it was Morse's tweets that got the message out to the world about much that was happening in Port Au Prince afterward.)
As to the video, I was taken by the performance mid-set of a very strong, anthemic song that seemed to speak of perseverance and unity. It just seemed fitting to start with something like that, before turning to a full-tilt carnival-style rouser, one that lifted Lunise even further off her feet, and sent one of her earrings flying.
Note: It may be hard for some of us jaded music lovers to listen to the synth patches, which tend to sound very treacly to our ears. But this is all part and parcel of Haitian popular music, so I say, let the spirit move you. And when those funky honking horns come in, you'll be transported to carnival without leaving home.
For the full history of RAM, click here.
To see more of Michal's original world music videos, visit: inter-muse.com.
GlobalFEST, Inc. is a not-for-profit production presented in association with World Music Institute, Joe's Pub at the Public Theater, Acidophilus: Live & Active Cultures and The Bowery Presents. Support for all eight editions has been provided by The Cultural Services of the French Embassy with additional support from the French Music Export Office.
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