By Alain Balan
On Saturday, August 23, Haiti Cultural Exchange held its 4th annual “Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl” (Poetry and Music Under the Stars) at FiveMyles Gallery. This annual performance has emerged as a seminal community event — one that has hosted renowned writers Syto Cavé and Anthony Phelps, Master Drummer Frisner Augustin, as well as emerging talents Melissa Beauvery and Riva Precil.
Traditionally held outdoors, the rain forced us inside but could not dim the energy in the room that evening. Catered by Cybille St. Aude, guests were offered delicious tastes of soup joumou, chicken skewers and pen patat while they mingled and shopped at the HCX Boutik.
Once everyone settled in, Shirley Skai and her band kicked off the night by presenting a mix of Haitian classics as well as some original songs. Her covers of Lauryn Hill’s song Ex-Factor and BeLO’s Lakou Trankil had the audience singing along, enthralled by Shirley’s beautiful voice and presence.
Jean Dany Joachim followed Shirley with a set of poems that were at times sober, and at others, passionate. One poem was dedicated to the chaos of the 2010 earthquake and the pain that has lingered in the hearts of victims and Haitians abroad. Jean Dany’s two year old son was also a highlight of the performance, joining his father on the mic.
Francie Latour offered us readings by René Philoctete and Michel-Ange Hyppolite. With a refreshing voice, Francie was able to hook the audience in as she read imagery-filled stories of raising her children in suburban Massachusetts.