Haitian musician connects the past and present

Val-INC uses the most sophisticated electronic equipment including electronic drum pad and sources her material from her heritage and ages past.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Haiti Cultural Exchange held it’s roving cultural salon Ann Pale (Let’s Speak) at Bubble Lounge in Manhattan, the same day as the anniversary of the Revolutionary Battle of Vertières, Nov. 18.

Regine Roumain, the organization’s director greeted those in attendance, remembering the battle of Vertières and the determination of Haitians in seeking freedom from oppression.

It was that date in 1803, Haitians, led by revolutionary heroes Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion and Francois Capois, stormed the French-held fort of Vertières and caused Napoleon’s troops to abandon their stronghold and ultimately concede defeat – giving birth to the first Black republic in the western hemisphere.

She expressed hope “that we will have the fortitude to create the Haiti that all Haitians deserve.”

“For the past year, we have been faced with sadness and despair for our fellow Haitians, for our country, and the news from Haiti rarely gives us hope for progress, “ she said. “Personally, I vacillate between tremendous anger and deep sadness…”

She then quoted local teacher, artist, and poet, Michele Voltaire in answering the question she asks herself, what is she doing?

Michele Voltaire Marcelin has this to say: “Why do I write? As a way to defy darkness, misery and fear, violence, treacheries, delusions. And what goodness and wonder and rebellion I have to share is my art. In a world filled with headlines of disasters and fear, we need to turn to art for a place to nourish the heart and soul. So against darkness and in haste, I write to share my light.”

Haiti Cultural Exchange was founded to develop and present the cultural expressions of Haitian people and is endeavoring to provide platforms for artists to share their light. Their monthly salons offer a more intimate experience with the creative artist and spirit.

On Nov. 18, Val Jeanty better known as Val-INC shared her unique style of music. The artist conflates 200 years of music/sound traditions, incorporating musical traditions of her ancestors past with electronic sounds of the future. Her percussion background from growing up in Haiti is the foundation of her creations that she calls, as a new genre, “Afro Electronica.”

It might take the traditionalist a while to understand her style and wrap the mind around Val’s mixing of her percussion and turntable, electronic technologies and traditional source material creating Afro-Creole expressionisms. The ah-ha moment is in seeing how she brings the very distant past into the future.

Prior to her performance, a short documentary in-progress Sound Rite by filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary was screened that helped give context to her work. Val answered questions from the audience following her performance.

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