Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, 2017 - Part 1

Mark Sullivan By

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Singer and violinist Yilian Canizares hails from Cuba, but lives in Switzerland. Her set had a dramatic, atmospheric opening with tube trumpet, mbira (thumb piano), and chant. A lyrical violin melody finally broke into a Latin groove. She delved further into her Cuban roots with a chanson by Luis Carbonell, and another Cuban song "Dónde Amor." At times it seemed her violin playing was eclipsed by her singing, but she played one fast violin feature, as well as playing climactic violin passages to end some of the songs. She also sometimes plays violin and sings simultaneously, or jumps between them, call-and-response style. Her final number built up tremendous energy: she had the crowd standing, clapping along, and chanting. This was even more dramatic at her Friday performance. She sang in Yoruba with guest James Germain, a remarkable Haitian singer with an especially powerful falsetto range. And she brought a couple onstage to join her with vodou chanting, culminating in a lusty audience sing-along.

2nd Interlude: Atis Rezistans community of Grand Rue; Marché en Fer (Iron Market)

Atis Rezistans is an artists' collective in downtown Port-au-Prince that makes sculptures and other artworks from recycled materials: old tires, scrap metal, toys, auto parts (the community is surrounded by the makeshift car repair district)...whatever discarded materials are at hand. The effect is striking and surreal, frequently using vodou imagery as part of the visual language. The collective's work also makes a powerful social and ecological statement—art as a way of making positive use of junk in their neighborhood, a means of improving the lives of the residents, and a commentary on the failing Haitian economy.

Marché en Fer (Iron Market) is a cast iron building first constructed in France in the 1890s, then brought to Haiti. It was completely rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake, and is now once again a bustling public market, restoring a longtime Port-au-Prince landmark. Vendors offer many kinds of handicrafts (made from wood, leather, and discarded oil drums), clothing, and artwork, as well as vodou ritual supplies.

This concludes the first half of the week. More to come in Part 2!

Photo credits: Josue Azor (Gonzalo Rubalcaba); Mark Sullivan (Haiti travel photos)
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