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December 1997

Gage Averill
A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey: Popular Music And Power In Haiti

Averill, an academic and former Haitian music columnist for The Beat Magazine, has written a sociopolitical, chronological study, spanning the years 1915-1995, with key chapters on the regimes of Francois and Baby Doc Duvalier.

A signal event in the evolution of Haitian music was the U.S. Occupation in 1915, which introduced American jazz to Haiti. Jazz became djaz in creole, and ultimately came to describe any dance band or orchestra. Simultaneously, the Cuban son was making an impact. Averill writes that “the Cuban and jazz movements in Port-au-Prince’s popular music scene were the schools in which a new generation of Haitian musicians cut their teeth.” An important band of the 1940s was Issah el Saieh’s, with its “sophisticated jazz settings of traditional songs... inventive harmonies, and emulation of American big bands. From time to time, Saieh would bring American jazz artists such as pianist Billy Taylor and tenor saxophonist Budd Johnson to Haiti to give workshops for the group in harmony and instrumental technique.” Another instance of jazz influence was the 1980’s vodou-jazz band Foula, inspired by the music of Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius and Wes Montgomery.

Vodou jazz, merengue, konpa, mizk rasin, and other genres are covered. Song texts and proverbs are used to highlight attitudes concerning power and privilege. A glossary of creole musical terms and a discography are included.

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