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Haiti: President accused of censoring three carnival bands

18 February 2013

Lead singers behind some of Haiti’s most controversial carnival tunes this year say they are being shut out of the annual three-day pre-Lenten carnival because the President considers their songs too critical of the government.

The Haitian bands claim that Haiti’s charismatic president, Michel Martelly, has personally been disinviting bands with carnival songs which criticise Martelly for not fulfilling promises, wrote The Miami Herald.

In a country where past carnival songs have predicted the fate of governments, carnival lyrics are viewed as the social and political pulse of the country. In the past 20 years, some have even predicted the fates of governments, which President Martelly acknowledged in a radio interview, saying songs have the power to “overthrow a government.”

In his previous career as a musician, President Michel Martelly himself used to mock earlier Haitian governments during Carnival performances. ‘Sweet Micky’ built a reputation as the king of carnival by denouncing governments, mooning politicians and being outrageously anti-establishment.
“It’s a party, not a protest”
Michel Martelly said in a radio interview that one of the bands in question, Brothers Posse, didn’t meet criteria for performing. “It’s a party that’s being organised; it’s not a protest,” Martelly said.

The alleged ban of Brothers Posse has lit up social media and become a lead story for Haitian journalists. Political journalists and opposition lawmakers are employing the song lyrics in their own analysis of Haiti’s current rough political waters.

Martelly said the band lineup was selected by an 18-member carnival committee he appointed. He personally chose three bands and “intervened once” after the committee prematurely announced the lineup, which included Brothers Posse.

“I called the committee and I told them, ‘Careful — I would suggest you listen to the carnivals first’,” Martelly said.

Haiti roots band Kanpech also won’t be on a float for the second year in a row. Lead singer Frederic ‘Fredo’ Pierre Louis said the decision came from Martelly:

“This isn’t being decided by a group of five or six people; it’s one person,” said Pierre Louis, whose song ‘Nou Pap Ka Matel’ is a clever play on Martelly’s name as a derivative of a laundry list of government actions the Haitian people can no longer tolerate.

Richard Morse, lead singer of RAM, also not in the lineup, blames the committee. “On the radio, they said that RAM didn’t want to participate,” said Morse.

The group’s song ‘Men Bwaw’ has become the subject of decoding and debate as carnival watchers and journalists interpret its lyrics as double entendres illustrating frustration with the government.
Brothers Posse: ‘Aloral’ carnival 2013 video

Listen to Kanpech: ‘Nou Pap Ka Matel’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS8capYdFSI
The Miami Herald – 9 February 2013:
Haitian bands say Michel Martelly is censoring carnival songs
Lead singers behind some of Haiti’s most controversial carnival tunes this year say they are being shut out of the annual three-day pre-Lenten carnival — at the behest of leader Michel Martelly.
Salon – 10 February 2013:
Haiti musicians say they’re banned from Carnival
At least three Haitian musical groups believe they have been banned from performing during Carnival because authorities consider their songs too critical of the government.

 

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