A Caribbean Soul: Greater Antilles (Haiti)


A former French colony, Haiti became the world’s first independent black republic in 1804. Unfortunately, Haiti suffers from political unrest and is one of the poorest countries in the world. Aggressive deforestation has led to soil erosion and exacerbated flooding problems. Still, despite the problems the Haitian people have had to endure, in the liner notes to “African Friend” in the boxed set “Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads” Jimmy says, “they are the warmest and friendliest people I have come across in my travels.”

The music of Haiti also bears mention. The best-known Haitian artist is Wyclef Jean; others include T-Vice and Carimi. Styles include kompa, rasin and kadans. Haitians have also imported zouk from the Lesser Antilles and merengue from the neighboring Dominican Republic. If you travel to Haiti, expect to dance!

Speaking of music, Jimmy sings of Haiti in two of his songs.

On a timeless beach in Hispaniola
A young girl sips a diet cola
She’s worlds apart, worlds apart.
The spirit of the black king still
Reverberates through Haitian hills.
He rules the sea and all the fish
What if he had a TV dish?

(From “That’s What Living Is to Me” on the album “Hot Water”)

And “African Friend” (originally on the album “Son of a Son of a Sailor”) was written after a wild night in a Port-au-Prince casino. Jimmy has said he felt like he was in a Humphrey Bogart movie there.

Disembarking at Duvalier Airport,
Seeking transportation to town.
As the purple ink dried on his passport
He could still feel the eyes look around.

“Monsieur, ou est le casino?”,
He spoke to the cabbie and smiled.
The driver replied “Vieux ou noveaux?”
As he motioned the dark man inside.

Business in Aruba concluded
He now had a little money to spend.
That’s how I came to meet my African friend.

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