After the Dance, the Drums Are Heavy: Carnival, Politics, and Musical Engagement in Haiti

ISBN : 9780190928063

Rebecca Hope Dirksen
464 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Feb 2020
Currents in Latin American & Iberian Music
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Richly ethnographic and a compelling read, After the Dance, the Drums Are Heavy is a study of carnival, politics, and the musical engagement of ordinary citizens and celebrity musicians in contemporary Haiti. 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 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 a 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 Joj, 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.


List of Illustrations


Geography and History

Language and Listening

About the Companion Website


1. Sounding Carnival

2. Mixed Modes and Performance Codes of Political Demonstrations and Carnival

3. Wyclef's Score: Popular Motion, Emotion, and Commotion

4. Sweet Micky's Allure: Vagabonds, Vulgarities, and Street Politics

5. The Konpa President's Government on Parade

6. Ti Lili and Neg Bannann nan (the Banana Man)

7. The Population's Bacchanalia

8. Response from the Roots: Still Not Afraid

9. Re-Sounding Mizik Angaje

Epilogue 1

Epilogue 2

List of Interviews



About the author: 

Rebecca Dirksen is an ethnomusicologist working across the spectrum of musical genres in Haiti and its diaspora. Her research concerns cultural approaches to development, crisis, and disaster; sustainability, diverse environmentalisms, and ecomusicology; and applied/engaged/activist scholarship. She is a professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington and a founding member of the Diverse Environmentalisms Research Team (DERT).

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