Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Haitian Musicians Allege Government Censorship

Today is the last day of carnival celebrations throughout the Americas.  Much like their better-known counterparts in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, carnival festivities in Haiti are fled with color, revelry, and upbeat music.  Yet for some musicians in that Caribbean country this year’s celebrations have been marred by unnecessary criticism.

Members of three musical groups alleged that they were barred from performing at Carnival since their tunes poke fun at singer-turned-president Michel Martelly.

"These songs reflect the Haitian reality, but (Martelly) takes it the wrong way… Where's the freedom of speech? Where's the democracy? It shows that he has no tolerance (for criticism)," said Thomas Asabath, the manager of the Brothers Posse band, according to the Associated Press. 

One of the songs from the Brothers Posse entitled “Aloral” shows the lead singer critiquing a Martelly lookalike for failing to fulfill his goals in the presidency.   (This can be seen between the first and second minutes of the music video for the song).

The singer for RAM, whose group along with Kanpech and Brothers Posse was excluded from the Carnival lineup, said that he was informed that Martelly didn’t like the song they had selected.  The music video for that tune, “Men Bwa W”, supposedly depicts “a woman who physically resembles first lady Sophia Martelly stuffing herself with food – a Haitian symbol for avarice and corruption”.

In a statement published today, the government rejected the allegations of censorship and noted, “All carnival songs are in play on radio stations without limitation, all over the country with no interference from government.”  The statement describes how numerous factors are considered when awarding slots for Carnival including “consideration of the carnival theme, which this year is 'environment' and the need to give new artists their chance.”

Years before winning the presidency in 2011, Martelly was a celebrated Carnival singer nicknamed “Sweet Mickey” who “was donning skirts and wigs, cursing, and drinking like a sailor while performing his flamboyant act”.

The festivities in Haiti aren’t the only carnival-related controversy.  Panamanians are upset that Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Don Omar cancelled his concert at the last minute while Brazilian land rights groups were unhappy that one of the main samba schools at Rio Carnival was sponsored by German chemical firm BASF.

Video Source– YouTube via users PlatinumProduction, accesskompa

Online Sources – Huffington Post, HaitiLibre.com, The Atlantic Cities, IPS Noticias, Terra Mexico, Christian Science Monitor

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