An evening of Haitian culture and pride, starting at 8 pm, will take place May 20 at SOBs in Manhattan to commemorate the 215th anniversary of Haiti’s flag, the symbol of the first free Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere.
The first purely Haitian flag was adopted May 18, 1803, on the last day of the Congress of Archaie. It was one-half year before independence was declared — Jan. 1, 1804.
Haitian lore holds that the flag was created by the revolutionary leader Jean Jacques Dessalines, who took France’s tricolor flag and ripped out and discarded the white center, asking his god daughter Catherine Flon to sew the remaining blue and red bands together.
In honoring women’s contribution to the Haitian flag, three Haitian-American female artists will be showcased for this commemorative evening.
Classically trained pianist, and vocalist Phylisia Ross performs in English, French and Kreyol, and has been singing and playing the piano since she was three. Completely dedicated, she has developed vocal, instrumental, songwriting and production skills mastering and incorporating several genre styles from classical, R&B, jazz, and world music into her performances.
Born in Haiti, singer / songwriter Sherlee Skai spent her teenage years listening to Haitian artists such as Emeline Michel as well as American pioneers like Tracy Chapman, all who inspired her jazzy, folkloric, soulful, world music sound. After several singles and collaborations, Sherlee Skai recently released her album “Toutouni (Bare Naked)” where she celebrates her culture and shares her vision as an immigrant and as a woman standing in front of life, hence the title “ Bare Naked.”
Rounding-out the triumvirate of women honoring the Haitian flag is Haitian-American singer, songwriter, and author Riva Nyri Précil. Born in Brooklyn to a Russian Jewish-descent mother and a Haitian father, Riva grew up in Haiti, exposed to and studied under many great masters of Haiti’s cultural and artistic scene as well as her mother’s eclectic music interests from jazz and soul, to Indian and Arabic music. She also visited Haitian vodou ceremonies, learning both the beautiful and spiritual parts of the culture. At 15, Riva left Haiti due to the dangerous political climate and finished high school, majoring in vocal performance, at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. She received her Bachelor of Arts in music therapy at Loyola University of New Orleans.
Sunday should prove to be a rich, full evening of the next generation of Haiti-inspired women singers adding contemporary and cultural influences to a repertoire they will share while paying homage to their ancestral homeland.