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At The Mercy of The Haitian Media: The Haitian Music Industry

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

By Moses St Louis

The word ‘media’ (plural of medium) means “communication channels,” including, among others:

- Sounds - speech, music, siren, whistle, konpa (…),

- Images - pictures, signs, movies, the Haitian flag (…),

- Writing - books, newspapers, billboards, the Haitian constitution (…).

Before going any further in our communication today about the Haitian Music Industry (HMI), it’s worth noting that scientific progress and technological inventions have always played a major role in the development of the media.

Thanks to such a progress—from the printing press, telephone, microphone, radio, television, to video, etc.—cultural industries around the world have been booming, growing from economically ignored activities to an incommensurable market of hundreds of billions of dollars. The cultural economy enjoyed a 45.3% growth from 2004 to 2013 (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—UNESCO, The Globalization of Cultural Trade, 2016). As of now, culture, entertainment’s center of gravity, is the most powerful socioeconomic force for progress in the world. And here’s the hardest fact: Culture is Haiti’s most important and underexploited strength.

It is crystal clear: What we do in and with the Haitian media matters—whether in Haiti or in the Haitian diaspora. There’s no escape; what and how we communicate is undeniably part of who we are as a nation or a community. That said, we, Haitian musicians, fans and promoters, we can do much better when it comes to organizing, promoting, and strengthening the Haitian Music Industry. I will explain myself by briefly: (1) putting the HMI in a historical context, (2) taking a close look at the way we’re using the media, and (3) looking at the situation through the lens of the “Haitianbeatz Experience.”

1- The historical context

The media has played a very important role in the advancement of the HMI. However, unbelievably, there are debates right now on whether it’s true or false. As we all know, when two groups of people are arguing in and about the Haitian culture, it’s like two bulls locking horns in the same savanna/2 bèf ap troke kòn lan menm savann. Let’s simply hope the following historical figures’ contributions to the HMI will shed a light on the conflicting arguments — without going too far back in history.

Marcus Garcia, Rico Jean Baptiste, and Bob Lemoine (to name just a few),in the 1970's, culturally well-informed, turned their radio shows on, and blasted Haitian rhythms—from traditional Ibo, Yanvalou, Congo… to Konpa—on the air waves throughout the country. Millions of Haitian households could dance and sing in unison with Haitian musicians from all generations. It was a major cultural renaissance. Did the Haitian media invigorate the HMI? I swear to God: Yes!

Jean Dominique. He deserves a special consideration. With Radio Haiti Inter, from the late 70s to mid-80s, he conducted a cultural war for the emancipation of politically engaged artists to position themselves on Haiti’s musical stage. During that short period, the whole nation (the diaspora included) discovered the iconic and immortal Manno Charlemagne in “Manno and Marco.” That lit the torch of a lyrical revolution in Haiti’s music. Such was the birth of the very spicy and deep Creole metaphors that we enjoy today in political rallies, balls, carnival, rara, and privately. Did the Haitian media strengthen the HMI? Believe me: Yes!

Félix Lamy (Radio Nationale), Marc Lubin (Radio Métropole), Marcel Mathieu (RDC), Alex St. Surin (Radio Méga), and Roselyn Jean (Radio Superstar) have, among others, carried on their shoulders, from 1980s to 1990s, the heavy burden to pick the musical entertainment, protect their elders’ legacy, and build on it. They’ve done their very best with what they had at their disposal: analogical technologies, wired microphones, turntables, cassette players, physical ticketing system, limited national audiences, traditional commercialization of music, etc. Did the Haitian media reinforce the HMI? Obviously: Yes!

2- Our Use of the Media in the Internet Revolution

All those giants mentioned above, within their limits, deserve our gratitude. I applaud them. Proudly.

That was before the Internet revolution, starting around 2000, with the new millennium. Ever since, everything in the entertainment industry, including the HMI, has changed: The entertainment, the entertainers, the entertained audiences, the sellers, the buyers and above all, the economic growth engine, for the better and the worse.

The better

Unquestionably, we have made progress in the era of information technologies and communications.

The worse

Clearly, we have failed in many ways in exploiting broadly and intelligently the digital/Internet revolution for the progress of the Haitian Music Industry. Let’s consider some negative impacts of certain ideas in the HMI:

- The double-edged sword: The free access to information and information leadership are good; however,if you are ill-prepared, you cannot perceptively find your own way in this world of information, never mind guide your audience/community; the more accessible information technologies are, the more chaotic the information ecosystem is; and many, too many, are poorly informed opinion leaders on the Haitian communication platforms: radios, televisions, newsletters, social networks, etc. The HMI is suffering from this chaos.

- The development of the culture of lie and character assassination: The dog-eat-dog situation, which is the contrary to honest competition, is destroying progressive spirits in the HMI, creating an atmosphere of great fear and passive hope in the Haitian community; mediocre individuals are arrogantly noisier, angrier, hungrier for money, and slanderous—scaring away knowledgeable, honest, and progressive-minded folks in false hope for a positive transformation. The HMI is ripped by this tyranny of mediocrity.

- The lack of professionals: The situation described above is at the origin of professional scarcity and the systemic proliferation of charlatans all over our communities. The HMI is damaged by this systemic “charlatanization.”

- The productivity and production: It’s hard for our artists to emerge, grow, and emancipate themselves financially in the community and in the world’s modern and borderless Entertainment Industry; consequently, the musical productivity could be better., the production is very low, and the production’s quality needs to move up a notch. Bands also should be able to do better with the speed of their productions, the habit of releasing an album every 4-5 years, is not helping. There is a production drought that exist in the HMI. It is absolutely not difficult to “make an album.” as it used to be. In fact, it has never been easier. But most importantly, modern digital recording at home has become so simple and inexpensive, compared to recording at a conventional commercial studio of the past. The HMI is crippled by this weak and slow productivity and production.

The HMI on the Internet

More importantly, the Internet, in the age of information, makes that economic miracle doable and accessible to any nation, inciting us to forcefully say, clearly:

3- The Hatianbeatz Experience

Due to personal obligations, Haitianbeatz had taken a hiatus from the HMI in term of our media responsibility. It was a forced decision, especially after the passing of our late co-founder Jean Price Vixama (LeJacobinnoir).

For the past few weeks, I have received an overwhelming number of requests from our loyal readers, fellow medias and friends urging me to bring back Haitianbeatz in the media capacity. While mulling over the decision I started to think of the current state of our current media. My decision to return to the scene was not made to become the police of the HMI media. It was more so to add our voice of reason even if it’s only to the benefit of a minority few.

We hardly have any written media in the HMI, 95% of our media is through the internet…Facebook, IG, Youtube.

The electronic media has created a loss of intellectual capacity in term of reading and writing, as a result cultural literacy levels is declining within the HMI and our community.Cultural reading requires active attention and engagement, cultural reading is an interaction between the text, author and you the readers. Because we have shifted from reading to an open access to e-communication platform, unfortunately reading has become a thing of the past for many of us.

This obsession with then toxic electronic media is beginning to become a concern of mine. Clearly this is not an argument to put a hold on our internet media, nor to go back to the traditional way. Because, obviously there are numerous benefits and positive impact from the internet media boom through technology. However, this plea is for us to look into what we are giving up with the excessive amount of the negativity being spanned time and time again on the internet by our HMI media like, instagram, facebook,youtube, twitter, WhatsApp and television. What is the cost to be paid for this trend? The cost is too heavy, too unbearable.

We need to go back to decency and responsibility. Electronically connected is a good thing, it enables us to reach our audience much faster…but the decline in quality of what we are distributing to our audience is a retreat from our mission as members of the media.

On the other hand, we the audience is letting our attention span to be exploited by those digital negative medias. I understand we may have limited amounts of time to focus on a given day, and now every second of our attention can be targeted to imprison us into a negative school of thoughts. We should not let our guards down.

Obviously, I have no idea what the HMI media is going to look like in a few years. But here’s one prediction I feel very confident making: without a positive and more professional and fearless press the future will be bleak. Without honest and a decent media, the HMI is doomed. Without journalists who will concentrate more into bringing the industry together instead of pitting one against another, the future will be entirely shaped by the whims and wants of those who are tearing it apart. Without mutual respect for our fellow media personalities and the same for our artists, the consequences might become impossible to overcome.

I report, you decide.

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