Carnival Music Politics Provoke Government of Haiti Response

Haiti's Carnival has a dark side when it comes to music played during its annual celebration . At the festival, revelers respond to messages contained within song lyrics, and what they suggest sometimes makes the government of Haiti (GOH) uneasy. Some songs encourage festival celebrants to act out their resentment at the GOH.


During Carnival '97, the monster hit of music group Koudjay, "Si Yo Vle", urged Haitians to hang amoral politicians then in power. In response, many symbolic hangmen's nooses whirled above the crowd. Although the GOH refrained from commenting on the song, they responded with a direct show of force. Forty SWAT officers were deployed to brandish their semi-automatic rifles at the crowd with gestures that intended serious injury.

Haitian-American, Stanley Barbot, says that since François Duvalier's rule in the 50s, the GOH proactively uses Carnival as a platform to showcase its destructive force. Despite a democratic government in power today, such displays of force still occur at Carnival, even more so than before.

Music and politics have not always been partners at Carnival. Pre-dating the 80s, Carnival music was mostly concerned with sex and having a good time. By the 90s though, it had become politicized with Voodoo-rock words directly challenging the militarized government's brutality towards Haitians.

The response to such powerful music comes from the fact that more than three-quarters of Haitians are illiterate, and their only access to information is through social messages contained in song lyrics.

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Read more: Haitian Music, Government, politic, Sex, Francois Duvalier, Music, government Corruption, Song, Carnival Music, Koudjay, song lyrics, Message, carnival

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