I had a fascinating discussion today with author and economist Eddy Cave and musician Rene Desrosiers. Eddy was born in Haiti but has lived 44 years of his life in Quebec. He worked for the International Monetary Fund and several other international organizations. He is currently working on an initiative in Haiti to bridge the language gap between government and legal documents written in very complex French and the majority Kreyol speaking population. He currently writing a new book, so I was grateful for his time today. Rene is a Haitian music in Quebec and we discovered that he comes from the northern coastal region of Le Borgne, Haiti where I have visited. Small world! Between the two of them, they have extensive connections to the Haitian community in Quebec and the offered their help in opening doors to a variety of people and institutions for our project.
They were both very excited about the project. I continue to be heartened by the reception we get about the project. It seems to “strike a chord” with our contacts in Quebec. Eddy took me through the wide range of institutions that comprise the Haitian/Canadian community. Churches (both Catholic and Protestant), health care organizations, writers, radio shows, TV shows, hair salons and more all contribute to a rich experience for Haitians in French Canada. He explained that the ties are strong between Quebec and Haiti. Many send money back to their families in Haiti on a regular basis while working to bring them to Quebec.
We talked about the evolution of religious music. He grew up learning Latin and Greek in school and attending catholic mass in Latin, with Gregorian chant. In the 1960’s, vernacular language and music reforms replaced Latin and chant with Kreyol and Haitian folk music. This shift occurred around the world as Catholics responded to the reforms of the Vatican II Council. The “chansons d’espoir,” or “songs of hope” are still very popular in Haiti and among Haitians in Quebec. While some welcomed these changes, Eddy said that he still prefers the Gregorian music in church and the konpa in the night club. Eddy and Rene offered a glimpse into the internal diversity of the Haitian community here. They offered to meet again and to set up discussions with other leaders in the community. I look forward to our next meeting.