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Have you heard of Rara?

Posted 17 May 12

Image taken from Haiti Exchange

Raras are impromptu carnival parades that may “pop up” at any time in Haiti in the Caribbean between Epiphany and Easter. At its core are a group of musicians blowing deep notes on bamboo vaksin; blaring out a rhythm on motley, hand-crafted trumpets; and beating out high-octane percussion parts. They are often joined by a flowing entourage of singing marchers; ordinary people joining in, having fun and celebrating deep rooted cultural traditions.

Marching in a Haitian Rara amongst a sea of bodies is an extraordinary experience and in response to its loud percussive sounds more and more marchers hurry to join the procession, turning the affair into a joyous, life-affirming celebration.

For Night of Festivals 2012, we have invited the Haitian band Rara Lakay to help us celebrate our special carnival day on Friday 22nd June. After some back and forth with visa and passport applications, Rara Lakay will be arriving in the UK in early June, where they will be sharing their unique tradition with community groups from the Nottingham area.

Still curious? Here’s a taste of a traditional Haitian Rara procession in action:


Haitian Freedom and Pumpkin Soup…

Posted 03 May 12

Night of Festivals 2012 will include a special focus on Haitian culture.  Haiti achieved its independence in 1804, following the Haitian Revolution, the only successful slave revolt in history. We are pleased to welcome artists from Haiti to create a site-specific installation and to share their musical traditions which are a key part of celebrating achievement of that independence.

New Years day in England is normally associated with a time of relaxing with friends and family, recovering from the antics of the previous evening, enjoying a bank holiday and persisting in any new year’s resolutions. For Haiti, this is an extremely significant day which marks the declaration of freedom and independence.

Every January 1st since 1804, Haitians have celebrated this day by drinking pumpkin soup, or Soup Joumou. It may appear strange, but it makes sense. You see the French colonial powers forbade Haitian slaves to drink pumpkin soup. They were only to eat bland bread soup. Dishes containing pumpkin, beef stock and other vegetables were seen as extravagant and too good for the people they were enslaving. Since then, the soup has become a symbol of freedom to Haitian people.

Although Haiti is still experiencing economic and social troubles, its fight for equality also isn’t over yet. Celebrations and symbols, like the pumpkin soup, are powerful in giving Haitians the courage to persevere.

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