Jazz Caliente: The Cuba-Haiti Connection

Aug 11, 2017

In the early 1800s French slave owners fled the revolution in Haiti and many settled in Cuba.  They brought approximately 27,000 Haitian slaves with them to work on the coffee and sugar cane plantations.

Haitian culture is closely linked to Cuba’s because of their shared African heritage.   Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, after Spanish, and it has its roots in Haiti.  The Haitian language, religions and music and dance traditions remain a large part of Cuban culture.

There are a number of rhythms specific to Haitian music:  Mayi, Nago, Ibo, Kongo, Raboday and Pètwo, and an amazing variety of drums, shakers and sticks with which to play them.  

Haitian musicians in a rara band playing homemade horns
Credit Daniel Morel / Associated Press

Rara is a form of festival music that originated in Haiti, used for street processions, typically during Easter Week.  The music centers on a set of cylindrical bamboo horns called banbou or vaksen, and kòne, which are tin trumpets made from recycled metal containers. 

The Haitian Kontredans evolved from 18th century French country dances, and contributed to the Cuban forms of Tumba Francesa, Contradanza and Danzon, all of which served as the roots of modern Cuban music.

Listen for the Haitian influence from the band Mozayik this week on Saturday Jazz Caliente.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.  The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.