Lakou Lakay Milot
de, Rue Palais, Gros-Morne Arrondissement, Haiti
Echoes of Africa in Haitian DrumsFrom a cultural perspective, Haiti is as close to Africa as any country in the Caribbean. Strong ties are everywhere – from art forms like the papier mache bowls and vases I found on display at the Marriott Port-au-Prince, to Haitian Creole dishes like akra (malanga fritters). To me, though, Haiti's most pronounced ties to Africa lie in the country's music. As in Africa, drums are at the heart of traditional Haitian music. Known as le tanbou, Haitian drums are essential elements of the country’s culture. In style and sound, they descend directly from African Vodun. According to Gaston Jean Baptiste (aka: Bonga), a master drummer in Haiti, a tanbou “must be crafted properly and baptized in order to sound good and do the job.” To hear them being played, as I did at the Centre Culturel Lakou Lakay in Milot, is to be transported deep into the soul of what makes Haiti so special, so sweet, and so distinctly African.