REPORT ON A CONFERENCE
Castries, Saint Lucia, Tuesday 4 May 2010
The Haiti Music Forum took place on the morning of 4 May 2010 at the NIC Conference Room when Saint Lucian musicians and other people involved in the music sector met with their Haitian counterparts to discuss ways to strengthen collaboration and to build solidarity in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake of 12 January. This event was organised by Bluemango and Labowi Promotions, taking advantage of the presence in Saint Lucia of a number of Haitian artists and promoters who were participating in Jazz in the South. It was made possible thanks to the assistance of Scotia Bank and Right Angle Imaging, with in-kind support also provided by Renwick and Company, Lanmark Events, Bryden and Partners, and Rituals Coffee House.
A total of forty three (43) people attended the Forum (see full list in appendix), representing a wide section of people interested in the music sector, including key institutions such as the Saint Lucia School of Music, the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights (ECCO), the Folk Research Centre, the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) and the Alliance Fran?ise. In addition to participants form Haiti and Saint Lucia, organisations and groups from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago were represented, and the meeting also greatly benefited from the contribution of performer Dobet Gnahor?from Ivory Coast.
2. Main messages
Powerful testimonies came from several of the Haitian participants, including Thurgot Th?dat, the Director of Haiti?s National Arts School, Pascale Jaunay, agent for several Haitian artists, and pianist and composer Mushy Widmaier, who had offered an astonishing performance at Jazz in the South at Coconut Bay the night before. They spoke of the devastation that had affected their homes and lives, of the destruction of the music schools and their instruments, and of the very difficult human and financial situation in which musicians in Haiti now find themselves. In her own testimony, Dobet Gnahor?spoke of one of her Haitian friends saying how she felt she had lost her inspiration, and needed ?to get out of Haiti for a while, so as to be able to come back with strength?.
In these presentations and in the discussions that followed, a number of key messages were expressed:
* the need to build solidarity among musicians in the Caribbean, and especially between Haitian musicians and musicians from other parts of the region;
* the need for Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean to recognise Haiti as a Caribbean cultural giant that has contributed immensely to Caribbean identity and civilisation;
* the importance of generating a proper awareness and understanding of the realities faced by Haitian artists, and by the Haitian people as a whole;
* the need to build long-term solidarity and linkages;
* the fact that the disaster of 12 January and its aftermath have brought very special challenges, but that the need for greater solidarity between Haiti and the rest of the region existed before 12 January and will remain even after the recovery and reconstruction of the country;
* the need for concrete, realistic and feasible actions, in order to achieve impact and help restore the lives of Haitian musicians and the capacities of institutions in the music sector.
Taking into account these general considerations, the meeting formulated a number of calls and recommendations:
* to all music festivals around the world, to support the recovery of Haitian music and musicians by including at least one Haitian performer in their line-up;
* a to Caribbean governments, to do all in their power to facilitate the movement of Haitian performers;
* to music schools and other institutions in the Caribbean, to consider the recruitment of Haitian music teachers and to develop partnerships with institutions in Haiti, especially the Ecole Nationale des Arts;
* to musicians in Haiti and other parts of the region, to consider joint creations and collaboration, and to invite Haitian musicians to take part in workshops and other activities in their respective countries;
* to institutions in the music sector, to support residencies and other projects involving Haitian musicians, and to assist musicians in procuring instruments;
* to the organisers of this Forum, to consider the building of a website dedicated to Caribbean Jazz and World Music;
* to musicians all over the world, to keep participating in solidarity concerts and other events, but also to consider performing for free in Haiti, as a way to express that solidarity to Haitian audiences and to help.
In their respective contributions to the Forum, organisations present pledged their support to this process and their commitment to the implementation of the recommendations. ECCO indicated that the Caribbean Association of Copyright Societies was offering technical assistance to Haiti in the development of copyright legislation and institutions, the Alliance Fran?ise offered to assist by programming Haitian artists, and the Saint Lucia School of Music as well as the CDF offered to contribute in whatever way possible. It was also recommended that support be sought from organisations such as UNESCO, and that efforts be made to develop joint cultural proposals for funding.
In conclusion, participants noted that a similar encounter among Caribbean musicians and others involved in the music sector should take place every year on the occasion of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
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