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Carnival Ramble in Haiti
Air fares to Port-au-Prince seem to be reaching record highs. I wonder if anyone keeps records of these statistics. I’m assuming it’s the upcoming carnival season. I know of one local hotel which has risen it’s rates to three hundred dollars a night!! It all probably means that a lot of folks are coming in for the festivities. Try it. Call a travel agent and see how much it costs to get to Haiti this weekend or to rent a hotel room. You’ll be surprised. I get all my foreign news on line. You know, the typical stuff: Drudge Report, Wall Street Journal, NY Post, New York Times, Washington Post, Counterpunch.com and everyone is talking about a major world wide economic meltdown. Even here, they’re saying the Private Sector isn’t going to be spending much in carnival this year. My daughter’s plane ticket went from $600 one day to fourteen hundred dollars the next. How am I to interpret that?
Well, in spite of the meltdown our band RAM is temporarily busy. Wednesday we’re at YO! Club which is on Routes Freres near Djoumbala. Thursday is our carnival kickoff party at the Hotel Oloffson. Pre-Carnival Thursday is usually a big day at the Oloffson because a lot of folks from Miami, Boston and New York get a chance to see the band while enjoying the carnival vibe. Friday, RAM be in Petionville at a club called Trotyl and Saturday it’s RAM/Tropicana at the Oloffson. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Mardi Gras) is carnival. If we participate, and it looks like we may, we’ll play up to eight hours a night on the carnival float.
I’m looking forward to the Saturday show at the Oloffson. Tropicana is one of my favorite Haitian bands. I personally like the "old school" Haitian bands: Tropicana, Septontrionelle, Coupe Cloue and Gerard Duperval (Jazz Des Jeunes). These aren’t what you call "the Carnival bands". Carnival bands are Djakout Mizik, Sweet Mickey, T-Vice, Boukman Experyans, Azor, King Posse and sometimes RAM.
RAM spent seven years without doing a carnival video but we started up again back in 2006. Last year we had private sponsors (Digicel from Ireland) for the first time and it looks like this year we’ll have local, private, Haitian sponsors.
This carnival is different than most because it’s being held just before an election, so, government carnival funds are being directed to certain candidates. In other words, a band will be given a certain amount of money "officially" and then they give some of that money back, I’ve heard up to fifty percent, to the Ministry where they got the money from, and then, that kickback money will be given to the President’s choice candidates. It makes sense I guess. The president ought to be able to empower the candidates he wants, and if he wants to use the government as his own personal campaign machine, well, Daley used to do it in Chicago, didn’t he? I don’t believe all the ministries are participating in the kickback scheme.
Maybe it’s not really corruption if everyone, including the President, says it’s OK. In fact, this system is a growing part of the local economy. I figure its based on the NGO concept. Get a little group together, make yourselves official, and start looking for available Government funds. Is the market looking for votes, demonstrations, burning tires, political campaigning, street cleaning, civic education, canal digging, whatever? You too can get some of those funds.
Speaking of the upcoming elections, i met a Canadian "advisor" who was singing praises for Yourri Latortue. It was the first time I had ever associated "Canada" and "Corruption".
I happen to have a Canadian friend who’s as close to being a model citizen as one can get while still remaining some what sane. He’s spending his carnival season in Hollywood with Vanity Fair Magazine, trying to empower Haitian artists through the internet. Can you imagine an Oscar party with Hollywood celebrities in a room filled with Jacmel carnival masks and fer forge from Croix Des Bouquets? All that might be missing at that party is Florida Water and basilic!
RICHARD MORSE runs the Oloffson Hotel Port-au-Prince Haiti and the leads the Haitian band RAM.