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May 05, 2009

Alliance Francaise Celebrates Haiti

HaitiImg
Vocalist Lunise Exume fronts the group RAM in Manhattan's Florence Gould Hall.
Photo: Matthieu Raffard

by John Oseid

New York City's genteel Upper East Side doesn't often shake as hard as it did when the respected Haitian political music group RAM opened the Alliance Française's second annual World Nomads festival last weekend. RAM's politically engaged mizik rasin, or roots music, adds vodou folk elements to electronic rock, and its homemade sheet metal horns (called konet) had the Florence Gould Hall crowd on its feet.

Silence of the Lambs director and friend of Haiti Jonathan Demme is the patron of the month-long festival devoted to the island's culture. The Academy Award winner's 2004 documentary The Agronomist, about the assassinated Port-au-Prince radio journalist Jean Dominique, opens the cinema series tonight (here's the trailer). Demme's own Haitian art collection goes on display Thursday at the Alliance Française's gallery on 60th Street. And Wyclef Jean and other Haitian musicians will be downtown at SOB's on May 18.

American-born RAM singer Richard Morse manages Port-au-Prince's legendary gingerbread Hotel Oloffson. Check out the story of how the hotel inspired Graham Greene's novel The Comedians.

More music:
* RAM's music was used in Demme's film Philadelphia and is available in a greatest hits album.

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