by Sandie Blaise
As a vodou ceremony held on August 14, 1791, in Haiti (still called Saint-Domingue at that time) which united the slaves and launched the insurrection that followed, Bois Caïman (or “Bwa Kayiman” in Haitian Creole) has been referred to in various songs and types of music [please see this page for more information on the textual accounts of the event].
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, while the Duvalier dictatorship regime was ruling the country, Haitian “roots” music (“mizik rasin”) emerged and started a social movement, fighting both against the repressive regime and in favor of Haitian identity. They shared the same revolutionary goal as the initial members of the Bois Caïman ceremony, and even made explicit references to it, like the band “Boukman Eksperyans” (meaning “Boukman’s [or “Book-man”’s] experience”), named after Boukman, the vodou priest who is said to have presided over the ceremony some 200 years ago. Other references to the event can also be found in different styles of music, such as konpa, jazz, but also rap. Spiritual catholic songs also mention Bois Caïman, showing how interwoven the vodou and catholic religions are in Haiti. The ceremony also appears in traditional family songs transmitted from generation to generation, illustrating its presence throughout the centuries in both the private and public spheres. Though the general message embodied by songs mentioning the ceremony is often one of hope, fight, progress and unity of the people, it can nevertheless also refer to a christian theory equating Bois Caïman and the use of vodou in order to gain freedom with a satanic pact responsible for a series of curses on Haiti and the Haitian people.
In these pages, I will discuss the different uses of the references to the ceremony in music:
- Bois Caïman as a symbol of resistance in reclaiming Haitian traditional culture and history
- Bois Caïman as a symbol of unity of the people throughout the centuries
- Bois Caïman as a curse on Haiti and the Haitian people
Want to cite this page?
“Music and Bois Caïman,” Written by Sandie Blaise (2014), Representing Bois Caïman, The Black Atlantic Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/blackatlantic/ (accessed on (date)). – See more at: http://sites.duke.edu/blackatlantic/sample-page/storytelling-and-representation-of-bois-caiman/music-and-bois-caiman/