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Krewe du Kanaval – Celebrating the New Orleans and Haiti connection

29th January 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

“What we want to express through this event is the important connection between New Orleans and Haiti,” explains Preservation Hall’s Ben Jaffe of the Krewe du Kanaval’s multi-faceted, sure to be colorful, debut taking place on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. “It is one of the many important historical and cultural pieces of our city that is not always understood or celebrated but is a part of our life. It is a part of the food we eat, it is a part of the music we play, it’s part of many people’s spiritual being, it’s part of religion in New Orleans. The history between New Orleans and Haiti and New Orleans and Cuba and Cuba and Haiti is profound. Their history is as much our history as our history is their history.” Incidentally, kanaval is the Haitian kreyol word for carnival.

Presented by the Preservation Hall Foundation and Arcade Fire’s Regine Cassagne and Win Butler, the celebration’s full day of activities starts at 2 p.m. at Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter Street with a procession – a parade rather than a second line – that will include traditionally dressed Haitian dancers, the Hall Band, a rara rara ensemble and more. The destination of the parade will be Congo Square, an historic locale where free and enslaved people of color, including many Haitians of African descent, once danced, played their drums, traded goods and mingled. It has been written that many of the approximately 10,000 Haitians who had first fled to Cuba immigrated to New Orleans between 1809 and 1810. Half of them were slaves. Some of their blood relations could very well be dancing in the very same spot where their ancestors once congregated.



Congo Square stands at the center of the celebration and the festivities include performances by the always top-notch Preservation Hall Band, members of Arcade Fire (we don’t know how many) and RAM, an ensemble from Haiti that blends its homeland’s traditions with modern sounds that founder/vocalist Richard A. Morse describes as “vodou rock ‘n’ roll.” Several deejays will also be spinnin’ with one coming in from the Congo and a French-African deejay arriving from Montreal. There will also be food vendors set up at the historic Square where admittance will be free.

A procession led by Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes will leave Congo Square and head to St. Augustine Catholic Church for a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Slave, a shrine erected in memory of the many “nameless, faceless” Africans who faced the cruelty of slavery and died in the Tremé neighborhood. Located on the Gov. Nicholls’ side of the church, its main component is a cross made of thick chains on which shackles hang.

The assemblage will then return to Congo Square before heading back into the French Quarter to arrive at One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse Street, for the krewe’s ticketed, nighttime gala ball. Music will include Haiti’s, Grammy-winning, internationally renowned, politically and socially conscious group Boukman Eksperyans that joins its traditional Haitian roots and instrumentation with electric guitar and today’s styles. Profits from the show and krewe membership fees will benefit the Preservation Hall Foundation and KANPE, an organization founded by Chassagne, whose parents immigrated from Haiti. The money will be directed to under-served people in Haiti and New Orleans.

While visiting Radio Gondo Kreyol, the first Haitian radio station in Louisiana, Jaffe found much enthusiasm for the formation of the Krewe of Kanaval and that it celebrates Haiti and its customs. Coincidentally, the new event takes place at a time when Haiti and its populace have been undeservedly disparaged by #45.

“The people of New Orleans’ large Haitian community (primarily based on the West Bank) are so excited to have such a positive shine on their Carnival traditions,” Jaffe exclaims. “It’s going to a very beautiful symbolic and physical form of our appreciation and love.”

Jazz Fest Announces 2018 Artists

You know it’s New Orleans when all the talk is about both Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Last Tuesday, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced the artists who will be performing at its 49th anniversary event, Friday, April 27-Sunday, April 29 and Thursday, May 3-Sunday, May 6, 2018.

A is for Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul” who will be closing out the big Acura Stage on the fest’s first Saturday, April 27. It’s been reported that Franklin, who was forced to cancel two previous Jazz Fest dates, will be backed by a full orchestra. This will be one of those “don’t miss the legends” shows.

Jazz Fest has introduced a new policy this year by offering Louisiana residents discounted tickets for Thursday, May 3. Thursdays have often been referred to as “locals day,” and now the nickname has teeth as tickets at the gate – not in advance – for those carrying proper identification will be $50. The regular ticket prices are $65 in advance and $80 at the gate.

In no way does the schedule on “locals day” reflect any cutbacks in talent. Actually it’s way hot with vocalist Lionel Richie, reggae masters Toots & the Maytals, jazz legend, saxophonist Archie Shepp, the always moving Blind Boys of Alabama and many, many more.

Throughout the fest, tributes will abound for the late great Fats Domino including one featuring pianist Jerry Lee Lewis backed by a band that will have some of those musicians who played with Fats. “Blueberry Hill” meets “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

This article originally published in the January 29, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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