Dignifying the peasant and his music

During all those years of playing music, though I speak French fluently, not a single composition in French is to be found on more than a dozen cd’s I have released.

When I moved to Boston, I took part to many community festivities such as the River Street Festival in Cambridge, the Art Beat Festival in Somerville, the Diversity and the Heritage Cultural festival organized by the Boston Art Council, and countless other activities.

I have been invited by White folks to perform at some festivities where most “Haitian intellectuals” would be invited also. I can tell you that many were disgusted to see me perform at some “prestigious events.” I’m pretty sure that they would have been much happier to see Sweet Micky naked on stage cursing like a hooker at the corner of the street. If today, President Michel Martelly should be seen and this, without the shadow of a doubt, as one the best Presidents Haiti has ever had so far, one must admit that as an artist one would not suggest that he represents Haiti. However, he became millionaire and I can tell you, he did not get a penny from me because I never went to his gigs.

On that note, I’m going to reveal why my music is not quite appreciated in our community.

You see, if you go on this link: http://www.gifrants.com/natif , the pic of the banner with my old hat is very revealing. It is not for a show. The music I’m playing conveys the soul of the peasantry and I’m proud of it. I’m and I was never afraid to say that I’m a Ginen. Oh! Yes, I embrace the belief system of my ancestors and I have kept and I have been trying to evolve with the heritage they left me

1) The language. Not only, all my songs are in Creole, but yet at 14 years old, I was writing my girlfriend in Creole while I was attending one the most prestigious schools in Haiti—College Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours

2) The belief system—Lèsen pa Bondje, men Lèsen la.

3) The country—although I left Haiti, my dedication to our music has been non-negotiable and uncompromising.

Why most Haitians living in the cities, who went to schools, get a degree or diploma, despise so much the peasant? Why must he be a Jezifra or a Papa Bicha, a bouffon, a Bouki Malis would always try to screw? Is that the only way we can see our Haitian brothers and sisters who live in the countryside without water, electricity, in deplorable conditions no human being should be living in. Dispossessed, humiliated, they are strangers in their own country and outcasts on foreign lands.

I lived in Miami for some time. I was disgusted to hear and see how Haitians living in Pembroke Pines, Kendall, Palm Beach, Aventura, Davis, Hollywood, and other surrounding areas were looking down on Haitians living in Little Haiti. Guess what? Though I lived in Hollywood, I was going there all the times to eat—Bon jan mayi moulen ak zaboka, ak manyòk.

Let me tell you a story. I went to Haiti in 2011. I went to my Lakou. On my way back to Cap-Haitien, on the “karetèl”, (small trail), I met two peasants who just came from their “bitasyon”, “plantation” with two horses whose “djakout”, (bags) were filled with sugar cane. I told them that I have not eaten sugar cane for a long time and ask them to give me some. Not only, he peeled one string for me, he gave 2 more. I drew my wallet and handed him a $ 100 bill. HE REFUSED! I begged him to take it. HE REFUSED! Those were his words:

Bòs la, w di w genyen kèk tan, w pa manje kann. Enben, mwen gen kann la, mwen ba w ladan!

(Boss, you said you did not eat sugar cane for a long time. Since I do have some, I’m giving you some.)

Men moun nan nèg lavil pa vle wè a!

(Here is the human being, most Haitians who are educated and better off despise so much!)

I know that between the scores of John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, George Benson, Chick Corea, Charlie Parker and Gifrants’ scores, 100% percent of knowledgeable Haitian musicians will unavoidably grab the Americans’. Why?

1o) Blan an fò tout bon

2o) Ki sa Gifrants konnen la? In fact, one famous guitarist who has performed with famous American jazz musicians said it straight to my face: W pa fè anyen nèf la! Amen!

3o) Sa se mizik peyizan. They say they cannot relate to it. Even my lyrics seem to give them some headache. Amen!

4o) Although many of them repeat proudly that “Quincy Jones says that Haitian music is great”, they will buy and adulate his scores. But, do not ask them to study and learn about our music. Sa se vye bagay peyizan!

But, with me, there is another problem! I stand proud and I dare prove that they are wrong! To make matter worse, though I was never invited to perform at any major Haitian festival produced by Haitians, though my music can hardly be heard on Haitian radios, this “pongongon” called Gifrants keeps producing!

And I said it loudly—The Haitian community at large and except a group of Haitian taxi drivers in Cambridge and Boston during a certain period has never bought my cd’s.

The peasants are the keepers of the Haitian collective soul. We are right now at a very crucial moment of our history where there are tangible efforts to rebuild our country. This rebuilding must start from the bottom up. It is time to go back to our roots and the best way to learn and to understand who we are is to put the peasantry, which has been left behind for so long, at the center of it all.

Natif is a palpable proof that the music he plays intuitively can be standardized, presented scientifically and is as sophisticated as any well recognized genres such as jazz and can be even more challenging.

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