The Haiti Mizik concert and fundraiser featured great music and vibes but a much smaller turnout than organizers hoped. Rain kept people away for the first couple of hours on Saturday, which didn't help. Still, about 800 people turned out Saturday and Sunday, and the Rhythm Foundation and other organizers raised $18,000 over the weekend. (Only about $4000 is free and clear for Haiti relief, unfortunately - although the bands, sound company, and marketing was all free, police and fire, insurance and so on coast over $7000. Rhythm Foundation folks is hoping to lower those charges so they can give more to Haiti - here's hoping they can.)
Still, it was appreciated. "I'm amazed by the outpouring," Jerry Brierre, a friend of the musicians in the all-star Haitian big band that closed the show Saturday night, including members of Dixie Band, Tabou Combo, and Magnum Vice's amazing guitarist Dadou Pasquet. "This is the first time in my life I've seen this outpouring of love for Haiti, from all nationalities." Brierre said people in the street ask him if he's Haitian and express their sympathy. At his drycleaners, everyone gave him $20 - cash. "I asked them if they wanted to give me a check, they said no, we know you - they gave me cash. I gave it to the Red Cross."
Onstage the Dixie band and their guests, fresh from a benefit at the Kennedy Center Friday night, were appealing to people in French and Spanish and English. The music was hopped up compas, with a heavy bass bottom, just-this-side-of-cheesey-Caribbean sweet synthesizer, and steady, elaborate, African-sounding guitar lines. About 200 people danced - you can't help but dance to Haitian music - more than with any of the other acts, and when those are Suenalo and Locos, that's saying something.
"We want to do somethign special for Haiti, because it has such a rich culture," Itagui of Locos said from the stage, after they'd just braved Murga from Panama (another irresistible butt buster). I predict a revival for Haitian music. Did anyone see Wyclef playing rara at the close of the tv telethon Friday night? It's raw stuff.
Suenalo and Locos both sounded fantastic. So did Lanzallamas Monofonicas, which has a wildly original line-up: violinist, timbal player (plus guitar), and a cuatro player up front, a guy on the keyboards who looked like a rasta and sounded like a sonero, bass, congas and drums."I've never heard them sound this good," said Mark Weiser, who's been booking bands at Tobacco Road and other places for more or less forever, and had come out with a neck brace from a recent near-fatal accident to show support. Everyone offered prayers for Haiti - usually in Spanish.
For whatever good it will do them, but there's good in hope - and in playing or dancing to music to inspire energy and hope. A benefit "is helpful if you want to participate, feel likeyou're doing something," Carl Salvant, another friend of the musicians, said. "It'll make you feel less helpless."