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jason on 01/27/2010 at 01:22PM

Celebrating Haitian Rara with Djarara, Alan Lomax, and the Other Side of the Water documentary film

Djarara, "the only sustained rara band in America", performs in summer 2008 (photo © Other Side of the Water [source])

Barbés is hosting a celebration of Haitian rara music this Thursday night. From the Barbés site:

Rara is festival music usually played by marching bands. The music is played on drums and homemade bamboo horns (sometimes replaced by PVC pipes) and is often associated with certain aspects of Vaudou rituals. it's also a purely celebratory music which can have political and protest overtones.

This event was inspired by the re-issuing of Alan Lomax in Haiti, a legendary set of recordings commisioned by the Library of Congress in 1936-1937. At 7pm, the event begins with a presentation of recordings from this 10-disc box set.

The event also features a performance by Djarara, New York City's premier Haitian rara group, who have been active for two decades. Djarara performed live from Barbés this past September, with their amazing array of PVC pipe horns, in an event that was broadcast on WFMU's Transpacific Sound Paradise. Two medleys from the performance can be heard below.

Djarara is "the only sustained rara band in America" according to the producers of The Other Side of The Water, a new documentary film that follows the group "through a hidden New York landscape of vodou temples, underground economies, violent politics, and ground-shaking music." The documentary is co-produced by Magi Damas and director Jeremy Robins, whose previously collaborated on the 2004 documentary "The Cause of Pierre Toussaint". The Other Side of the Water will screen at Thursday's event, and you can watch a preview after the jump >>

In light of the recent tragedy in Haiti, proceeds from Thursday's event will go towards earthquake, although this was not the original purpose of the event, which was planned a long time ago as a celebration of rara music. "Too often, coverage of Haiti relies solely on images of violence and misery, often to appalling results. This should be an opportunity to look into the richness of a culture with deep roots and complex traditions," says the Barbés site.

Barbés is an intimate venue, and will probably reach capacity early on Thursday, but you can check out The Other Side of the Water news page for information about other benefits, Djarara performances, and documentary screenings. For example, I just learned that Djarara's horn section performed with Wyclef Jean as last Friday's Hope for Haiti telethon! And future screenings include Saturday February 6th at the Brooklyn Museum, and Friday Feb 12th at Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV)

Please visit The Association for Cultural Equality for more info about Alan Lomax in Haiti, as well as resources for Haiti earthquake relief

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