Music; Ambience: Rara/Bizango music
JM: We’re listening to the traditional music of a Haitian ceremony filled with dancing, spirituality, and a name as exuberant as the celebration itself. It’s called Rara. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
JM: In many Catholic countries, the six weeks before Ash Wednesday are called Carnival, and they’re filled with massive celebrations, ending at the start of Lent. But it Haiti, when Carnival ends, the celebration is just beginning. In the Haitian countryside, where Voodou traditions are observed, instead of going into 40 days of penance for Lent, they continue the celebration with their own festival, called Rara.
JM: According to Dr. Elizabeth McAlister, an Assistant Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, during Rara, costumed groups emerge from the hills of the Haitian countryside, dancing, singing, and playing drums. Each Rara group is very similar to a carnival group, with musicians, flag bearers, and food vendors. But the Rara groups also have a cadre of spiritual experts–Voodou priests, and healers.
EM: During the climax of Rara, in Easter week, the bands leave home on Holy Thursday, singing and dancing, but also stopping at cemeteries and crossroads to perform spiritual works. The celebration continues through Easter Day, and the bands don’t return home until the following Monday.
JM: Dr. McAlister believes that Rara is rooted in the spiritual ceremonies of slaves brought to Haiti from Africa by Catholic settlers, and so Rara developed into the mix of Voodou and Catholicism that it is today. Year after year, the celebration continues to build, and through Haitian immigration, Rara is spreading throughout the world.
JM: I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.