‘HAITI COME TOGETHER!’

From July 25 through Aug. 12, all kinds of performances and other family entertainment will take place at one of the many plazas of Lincoln Center, Manhattan as part of its Out of Doors series.

Among the series’ different musical offerings are Turkish funk and rock, Irish, Israeli, Puerto Rican, in addition to an American Roots Festival music weekend – Aug. 11 & 12 from 1:00 p.m.

On Aug. 5, Heritage Sunday AYITI RASANBLE! (Haiti Come Together!) devotes a full afternoon, from 1:00-6:00 p.m., to Haiti. The stage at Lincoln Center Hearst Plaza near 65th between Columbus and Amsterdam will showcase the Haitian performances.

Haitian dance troupes Feet of Rhythm, Kongo – featuring Peniel Guerrier, and La Troupe Makandal will perform to the percussion and melodies of authentic Haitian traditional music. The ra-ra group Raram will also perform.

Three of these dance groups collaborated in a recently completed three-part series with Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) as part of a five-year Community Cultural Initiative with the Haitian performing arts community, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. About 10 Haitian cultural workers and activists, now calling themselves Ayiti Fasafas, Haiti face-to-face, have been meeting with CTMD, since last fall, to organize the series.

A memorial evening, June 30, paying tribute to the great master drummer and Brooklyn-resident Frisner Augustin who died of a stroke in Haiti in February of this year was the second in the series. CTMD and Ayiti Fasafas assembled the most talented top musicians and dancers from the traditional arts community who volunteered their talents for the free tribute. Haiti Cultural Exchange provided refreshments.

Ninaj Raoul of Kongo said, “There’s a lot of love here,” referring to warmth in the packed Roulette theater on Atlantic Ave., the engagement between performers and audience, and the sense of remembering Frisner’s immense talent and joyfulness.

Jazz guitarist Ti-Pascal (Alex Pascal), who isn’t usually associated with the “traditional” music scene, performed with Avant-garde drummer Andrew Cyrille who collaborated with Frisner on the CD Route De Frères, released last year. Cyrille was planning their next collaboration at the time of Augustin’s passing.

Ase Dance Theatre (modern and vernacular movement), Brother High Full Tempo, (ra-ra) Gran Chimen (troubadour), and Pat Hall Dancers were among those who channeled the spirit of Frisner. Frisner’s own drummers from La Troupe Makandal were an integral component of the evening, which also included student drummers from the Makandal Haitian Drum Workshop, classes Frisner taught at Hunter College since 1983 and will continue with others from Makandal.

The third program in CTMD’s series highlighted dance. Held at El Museo del Barrio on July 14, this event honored master dancer Jean-Léon Destiné.

Among his many noteworthy milestones, Destiné performed at the National Folklife Festival in Washington DC in 1941, and danced with Katherine Dunham’s Broadway production and touring company of Bal Negre. He started his own dance company that played theaters, concert halls, and venues coast to coast and has a long list of honors and awards for excellence in the dance.

During the tribute, dancer Peniel, garbed in shiny red, presented Destiné, seated in the audience with an asson and bell–instruments integral with vodou rituals.

Destiné later came on stage and thrilled the crowd when he joined Peniel for some dance movements before he told the audience about his trajectory as a dancer.

Five performing troupes, from those deeply embedded in the traditional to those blending contemporary with the traditional–all accompanied by the talent of local drummers, filled the evening.

Ethnomusicologist Lois Wilcken said of the three-part series, “With CTMD’s collaboration with Ayiti Fasafas, the Haitian cultural community has brought together artists from their own corners. We’ve come to know each other on a deeper level and we enjoy working together. Our task, now, is to carrying this understanding into our respective established communities.”

Full Lincoln Center Out of Doors schedule: www.lcoutofdoors.org

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