Episode Description

I love foundational work like this! A richly ethnographic and compelling read. The book is: After the Dance, the Drums Are Heavy. Dr. Dirksen’s book is a compelling study of kanavale, politics, and the musical engagement of ordinary citizens and celebrity musicians in contemporary Haiti.

This first episode (1/3) adds the foundation for later episodes, where the book explores how the self-declared president of konpa Sweet Micky (Michel Martelly) rose to the nation’s highest office while methodically crafting a political product inherently entangled with his musical product.

It offers a deep historical perspective on the characteristics of carnivalesque verbal play and the performative skillset of the artist (Sweet Micky) who dominated carnival for more than decade-including vulgarities and polemics.

Yet there has been profound resistance to this brand of politics led by many other high-profile artists, including Matyas and Jòj, Brothers Posse, Boukman Eksperyans, and RAM. These groups have each released popular carnival songs that have contributed to the public’s discussions on what civic participation and citizenship in Haiti can and should be. Drawing on more than a decade and a half of ethnographic research, Rebecca Dirksen presents an in-depth consideration of politically and socially engaged music and what these expressions mean for the Haitian population in the face of challenging political and economic circumstances.

After the Dance, the Drums Are Heavy centers the voices of Haitian musicians and regular citizens by extensively sharing interviews and detailed analyses of musical performance in the context of contemporary events well beyond the musical realm.