I’m a wannabe athlete who loves to run. I’ve earned bragging rights for finishing several half- and full marathons, among them two Marine Corps. When I run, I compete only against my shadow–nobody else’s. I aim to do better than I did in previous races; the end. I don’t get an itch, when other runners leave me behind. As long as I finish—however long it takes me to finish—I win. Big.
Some people can hold deep conversations with their buddies while running; I’m not that skilled. When I get out there, the only voice that won’t bug me belongs to Eddy François, the lead singer of Boucan Guinen. He has resided inside my modern-day boombox for years. Boucan Guinen’s Pale Pale CD pulls me through every finish line. People laugh and tease me, saying: “You’re still listening to those same four songs?” I don’t answer anymore. They don’t get it.
I saw Boucan Guinen perform in Brooklyn years ago. It was there that I experienced pioneer racine band, Boukman Eksperyans, for the first and only time. I fantasized about meeting those musicians someday. Someday never came, but Boucan Guinen continued to pull me through more finish lines.
Boukman Eksperyans’s lead’s singer’s son, Paul Beaubrun, now has a band of his own: Zing Experience.
Zing’s message of togetherness by any means continues to gain massive popularity internationally. Paul is a dynamic performer and one of the sweetest people I’ve met. Check out our VoicefromHaiti INNERview.
Two weeks ago, when a friend told me about the festival in Aquin, Haïti, I was intrigued. When I heard that Boukman Eksperyans, Zing, and Boucan Guinen would be there together, I ran a minute-mile to the airport.
When I reached Haïti and learned that rehearsals would take place at Boukman’s place, I fainted. The first person I saw there was Zing’s first lady, Cynthia C. Beaubrun.
On a front porch not far too away, Zing rehearsed. Everyone was so pleasant. So normal. . .
Zing continued to rehearse, perfecting their sound. When rehearsal turned into a laissez-faire jam session, I threw a song; the musicians didn’t let it fall. They played. I sang. We jammed and laughed and jammed some more.
When the bus to Aquin arrived the next morning, I was in shock. Seriously. Guess who was there!
For three and half hours, I rode to Aquin with several of Haïti’s most talented Racine musicians. A dream bigger than the one I dared dream came true.
Paul Beaubrun and Eddy François sat front and center, laughing and conducting the mayhem. Eddy’s better half and Boucan Guinen singer, Manina François, stayed graceful amid the raucous banter.
Percussionist, Yatande Boko, kept everyone entertained with his mischievous antics. Bass player, Chico Boyer, sat by a window, looking ever so pensive. Jimmy Daniel drummed on the back of the seat in front of him. Paul’s queen, Cynthia Beaubrun, was serene and composed. I managed to sit still, even if I was in Racine Heaven.
We reached the hotel just in time for everyone to get ready for the show.
There was a whole lot of fun going on, but these guys are actually hard-working professionals who happen to love their job so much that it looks like they’re playing. The musicians poured their souls into each number. The crowd cheered. Zing’s set ended too soon. Boukman was next.
Boukman Eksperyans was perfection personified. The dancers moved parts of their bodies I didn’t even know existed. Manzè Beaubrun gave the crowd all she had and plenty more.
Boucan was supposed to play immediately after Boukman Eksperyans, but Rain had a different plan. Everyone hurried to the bus. “I love music, but I’m not ready to be electrocuted for it,” one musician whispered.
It was now 3:00 in the morning. Many of the guys had fallen asleep. It looked as if Boucan Guinen would not perform. But the crowd was relentless.
Boucan Guinen had to go onstage. I went with them, naturally. Yatande Boko and Jimmy Daniel blew me away; those drums were like thunder.
The crowd loved Manina, and behaved as if they’d known her for a long time.
When the night sky started to shed tears once again, the musicians’ faces registered fear. Rather than end the show, Paul Beaubrun and his dad joined Boucan Guinen on stage for the ultimate jam session.
I put my camera down, and bounced. I owed myself a dance, and it was payday.
Boucan might have finished last in the festival, but the people of Aquin won big. (I did, too.)