Arts, Culture & Media

Carnival celebrations are underway in Haiti, with a surprise band from Canada

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Credit: Photo: Mirissa Neff

Arcade Fire and Symbi Roots take the stage at Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti

Popular Haitian musicians performed on Jacmel's Carnival concert stage this past weekend in Jacmel, Haiti.

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Also on the bill was Arcade Fire, the Montreal alt-rock supergroup. Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne, whose family roots are in Haiti, was thrilled to join the festivities.

"Ha! I don't know where we fit in. We're just celebrating, offering what we have, we're a band, so we're going to play music. Some people bring food. So we're bringing music."

For a long time, the band has been working with non-profit organizations throughout Haiti, including Partners in Health. In fact, for each concert ticket the band sells, $1 goes to the NGO.

For Chassagne, the group's involvement in Haiti is very personal. She went down there for the first time after her mom passed away a few years ago. The trips have been cathartic and also familar.

"I could really relate to it and it just made me realize how much you can absorb just from your parents," she says. "It was basically how I imagined it."

But for the other members of Arcade Fire who don't have this personal connection the trip is just as exciting.

They're bringing their music to cross-pollinate with the music in Haiti.

"It's hard as a musician to be surrounded by such a deep music experience and not want to participate in some way," Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire says. "I mean that's really how I see us being here, it's not like anyone in Haiti has really heard of us, so it's really more of a participatory thing."

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated that the celebration in Haiti is called Mardi Gras. In New Orleans, it is called Mardi Gras, but Haitians call their celebration Carnival.

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