Caribbean Music in Haiti sample paper

Music from different backgrounds differs in their characteristics based on the race or ethnicity of a community. This project is a listening exercise of Haitian Pentecostal Mass celebration. It entails developing question to help analyze the music. This exercise will involve two parts including questions to characterize the music from the participant point of view and question to evaluate the music from the composer’s viewpoint (“The praxis series”, 2010).. The performers of a Haitian mass celebration may adopt a slightly different technique form the mainstream Haitian music.

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Understanding the history of key development in musical style and the important characteristics of Haitian musical style and the historical basis of the specific element of the music is one theme of this project (“The praxis series”, 2010). Various questions relate to this theme. One question addresses the styles and historical epoch reflected in the presentation of the Haitian Protestant music. The other focuses on characteristics of this type of music in respect to the style and the period to which the music has its origin.

The second aspect of this project involves assessing the music from a composer point of view. From this aspect, the exercise will involve understanding and analyzing music in aural form and illustrating aural skills by appreciation of rhythm, harmony and melody. The exercise will involve assessing the pattern and harmony of pitch. Another part will cover the theme and melody of the music. In addition, the question will seek to determine rhythm, tempo and meter of the music. This section will also look at the form, structure and texture of the music. This aspect will also look at the variation in the musical sounds. Especially, the timbre of voices of participants and instruments are important in understanding the musical sounds involved. In addition, evaluation of sound dynamic of the music will emerge (“The praxis series”, 2010).

Stage 2

This project seeks to answer specific questions intended to reflect the characteristic of the music from two aspects including the observation of the music presentation, and the interview with the music composer. Therefore, in this regard the project will seek to answer the following questions.

  1. Questions to aid the analyst when listening of the Music
  1. How is the pitch organized and harmonized in music?
  2. How is the theme and the melody of music developed?
  3. What is the rhythm, meter and the tempo of the music?
  1. The Elements The Music Composers Consider In The Composition Of Haitian Music
  1. How is the theme of religion expressed through the style of the music?
  2. What aspect of Haitian culture does the music highlights?
  • What role does the music instrument play in respect to defining the theme of the music?
  1. What are the form, texture and structure of the music?
  2. How did you integrate variation in the musical sounds to give the music a religious tone?


Haiti has a diverse setting that has forged all aspects of their lives. Their multicultural backdrop has influenced their musical expressions apparently. European colonialism, especially French alienation and African slavery inspires the Haitian music. Nonetheless, the music integrates a significant aspect of Spanish infusion. The Haitian music style derives from the Compas and Vodou ceremonials customs. Although the Catholicism has influence much of the Haitian culture, some still perform percussions and Vodou popular in spiritual music. Especially, this mass presentation of Haitian protestant music reflects an aspect spiritual music. In Haiti, the music invokes spirits known as the Iwa, whose individual personality trait determines the class of songs and instruments used in the ceremony (Writing, 2008).

Typically, the forms of Iwa are petwo and rada. Different ceremonies may use a drum corresponding to the type of Iwa invoked in the ceremony. The two types of drums are made from different materials. The rada drum is made of cowhide covers fastened with pegs made of wood, while the petwo drum is made of goatskin, which is fastened to a wooden frame with cords. The vodou sounds and rhythms capture the characteristic of the area of the performers (Writing, 2008).

Compas, originating form an integration of ballroom dancing of Europeans constitutes a type of music characteristic of Haiti middle class. The performers of the music played it with undercurrent of meringue and tipico. The music seemed to incorporate African and European dances. It depicted a variation of the minuet (Writing, 2008).

The Haitian Pentecostal music performers seemed to experience music to heat up the setting with praise to invoke the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal mass presentation aid an ecstatic aura of worship that motivates congregants to build trust in God notwithstanding the challenges of poverty and bad health.

The Pentecostal worship songs seem to be point songs represented by words like “Papa”. The performers of the Pentecostal mass music sing as if they are driving a point against a subject. The Pentecostal mass music used popular musical instruments found in most American Pentecostal, including drums set, guitars; electric keyboard and hand clapping for accompaniment (Butler, 2003). Thus, the singing oscillated between different languages corresponding to the languages in the songbook. These patterns of music include French hymns, fresh choruses, Creole-language hymns, and Creole choruses.

The use of Haitian language in the Pentecostal mass music and Konpa dominated the music. The congregants use them to express their Haitian experience. The Haitian music involves a unique vocal style expressed in Haitian rhythm. The singers in the music keep full-throated voice of the chest in the highest upper register instead of changing to head voice of falsetto. In addition, the performers of the music employ an audible nasalization as inherent in Haitian Creole vocabulary such as lontan, anyen, genyen, and mwen by nasalizing the vowel comimg before letter n. Nevertheless, elite Haitians emphasize less of this style of music in Pentecostal mass music presentation, as they believe that the impression of the styles adopted by the Haitians in their home country is unrefined. Thus, the congregants in Maryland like in any other states in the U.S. descend to allegedly a more civilized mainland protestant churches and catholic cathedrals. This style is evident in the song “Pa Gaday Lot Moun” by Dickson Guillaume and Haitian mass radio (Guillaume & Haiti Mass Radio, 2006).

Instrumental Accompaniment

Concerning the instrumental accompaniment of the mass music involved the use of drum-set rhythm, which the Haitians call a “march” (Butler, 2003, p. 103). The performers sang various songs in medley fashion, which involved first singing in French then shifting to Creole. Then, as the music progresses, the intensity of music increase as singing and playing get louder, and the performers move their bodies more energetically and emotionally. During this time, the “march” edges towards the konpa style, which kata rhythm characterize. The kata rhythm is played on the cymbal. The konpa style employed by the performers diverges from the popular Konpa-direk adopted by the popular dance bands including Sweety Mickey, T-vice, Tropicana, Skah-Skah, and Tabou Combo (Butler, 2003). The skin covered drum (tanbou and graj) are usually absent in the Haitian Pentecostal mass music.

In mass celebrations by Haitian Protestants, the performers support the accompaniment of instrumentals by clapping of hands. For songs with fast-tempo of approximately 8 half-notes every minute, performers usually clap on beat one and three, especially when the drummer plays the “march” rhythm. When the music rises to a crescendo, and the congregants start to experience the Holy Spirit, claps imitate the cymbal pattern of the kata, which a drummer may not necessarily be playing. (“The praxis series”, 2010).


The composers of haitian mass music, Mr. Pierre attempt to develop pieces that reflected haitian sensibilities while appealing to a universal audience. The image of Voudou though revamped by the intellectuals, the composer of the Haitian music constracted a characteristics of the nation from which the performers originate from. In adition, they expressed patriotic sentiments towards foreign intervention. The composer admited to incorporate musical instruments to suggest imagery of the famous Egyptian past to susuatin Haitian culture (Butler, 2008).



Butler, M. L. (2003). “Nou kwe nan sentespri” (We believ in the holys spirit): Music, ecstacy and identity in Haitian pentecostal worship. BMR Journal , 85-125.

Butler, M. L. (2008). The weapons of our warfare: music, positionalty, and transendence among Haitian pentecostals. Carribean Studies , 36 (2), 23-64.

Guillaume, D., & Radio, H. M. (Composers). (2006). Pa Gaday Lot Muon. New York, New York, Brooklyn.

The praxis series: Listenign, Learnig, Leading. (2010). Retrieved September 24, 2012, from Eductaional Testing Service.

Writing, C. R. (2008, July 5). A brieft history of Haitian music. Retrieved September 24, 2012, from Search Helium : file:///F:/1102288-haitian-music.htm


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