Here is the story of our journey to Leogane, Haiti to help our friend Rony Pierre fulfill one of his dreams; building Haitian Breeze Cafe. This incredible journey filled with music, friends, laughter, and love altered the lives of all of us forever.
The whole project and trip was crowd funded by an amazing network of friends and family that got behind the mission and decided to pitch in. Thank you all for your help in making this happen. And of course, this wouldn’t have came to fruition without the visionary man behind it all, Rob Rigolfi.
In October of 2018, I joined my friend Bob Rabbit on a life altering journey to Leogane, Haiti. Our goal was to help Rony Pierre start his dream business, Haitian Breeze Cafe.
Bob had been traveling to Haiti for a few years at the time, and I knew of the impact that those trips made on his life. After many conversations about his plans for another trip, he decided he wanted to assemble a team and shoot a documentary about his experiences down there. Drawing from our long history together, Bob knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me, and that I would gladly accept his offer. It was a no brainer for me. I accepted, and after lots of planning, off we went.
As our trip unfolded, I kept my microphones and recorder near by at all times, capturing everything I could. I became obsessed with the sounds of Haiti; how much there was to listen to, and how much there was to learn. A story unfolded before our eyes, and I did my best to record it.
What I’ve put together here is something completely unique. It’s an expansion on a concept that I’ve been working on for a while with Mitch’s World of Sounds. In this album there are 23 unique experiences that you can listen to, totaling over 2 hours and 45 minutes worth of audio. It’s an immersive experience of what the real Haiti sounds like. Not the Haiti you hear about or see on the news, but the Haiti that I lived and learned to love.
When you listen, imagine you’re really there. Pay attention to everything you hear, as it’s all telling you our story. The powerful musical performances, the laughter from our friends, the hard work being done at the cafè; it all tells our story. A journey of life, love, and adversity.
I hope you enjoy what I’ve put together.
Went Down To The Market
A music session on the porch at our home in Leogane, with one of Haiti’s most talented musicians, Joe Koby.
Breaking Ground At The Cafe
The team visits the cafe on our first day of construction for Haitian Breeze Cafe. Rony & Rob review the written plans, and we meet with our Project Manager Ricardo.
Night 1 Ambiance
Back at home we hang with our new Haitian friends. We are all starting to get more comfortable with each other. Love is the common language, and there is no short of it to be found here. Plenty of laughs and some really loud bugs!
The team takes a ride through Leogane towards Port Au Prince, where we will be buying materials for the cafe. Our driver Odson pushes through the local traffic with finesse and determination. Each time we get in the hot car, we aren’t sure if we’ll make it back home or not. The streets are lawless and chaotic, but sure enough, Odson always pulls through and gets us home in one piece.
A Lesson In Music From Koby
At home, we have an intimate musical experience with our friend and talented musician Koby. He teaches us to play traditional Haitian music, and we share some music with him. Then, Koby drops some knowledge on us about what it’s like being a musician in Haiti.
Outside The Bank – Downtown Leogane
Each morning, to start the day, we drive down to the bank in downtown Leogane. There, Rony and Rob handle the money exchange from US dollars to Haitian gourde. The rest of the team sits in the hot car and waits. The streets are so busy and full of life, and for me, this is a sonic heaven. Take a listen and you’ll know what I mean.
In Good Company At Home
After a long day, we always sit outside on our front porch. Since there is no air conditioning and it’s always hot, the best bet is to hang outside and wait for that lovely Haitian breeze to roll in. Each night is spent in community with our friends. Here’s what that sounds like.
Beets 4 My Homies
Bob Rabbit’s Beets 4 My Homies being played live in Haiti, pre album release. We sit out on the patio and unwind while Bob’s music plays.
One Thing Takes All Day
We learned that in Haiti, one thing can take all day. After many frustrating attempts at getting a generator, we find ourselves at – hopefully – our last stop of the day. The day has had many set backs and we are drained physically and emotionally.
Jam With Rony – You Are So Special
In Haiti, music is what gets us through the day. We take a break from the cafe and get down with some music. It’s amazing to here Rony sing.
We observe Dessalines Day with our friends. Jean-Jacques Dessaline was the leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first ruler of an independent Haiti in 1805. We sit down and have a classic Haitian lunch – ramen noodles, boiled hot dog, and ketchup. Together, with subtitles, we learn about the Haitian Revolution and what it means for this country.
Sifting Rocks For Concrete
At the cafe, the young men work endlessly. Rock is broken down and sifted thoroughly. The finest of the rocks will be used to make concrete for the building blocks of the cafe. It’s pretty amazing to watch them do this from scratch. The workers are shirtless, barefoot, and sweaty. A days hard work always calls for a cold Prestige break! Cheers.
At home, we break apart our drum set and find percussion instruments from around the yard. We all sit in a circle. I place a shotgun mic high above our heads in the center. I also set a dynamic mic about 4/5 feet away, low on the ground, to capture the low frequencies coming from the bottoms of our instruments. The Haitians have an innate ability for keeping rhythm. I believe it goes back to their African roots.
Lunch & Soccer
We sit at Lesthemy’s house where his wife makes us lunch. There are 2 big soccer games on television, so we take a break and watch them for a bit. Sports has an amazing way of connecting people together all around the world. This particular game was Brazil vs Argentina. We were rooting for Brazil.
At home, we host a big party on Odson’s birthday. This was one of the most special nights in Haiti as we all got together and celebrated Odson, and all of the work being done at Haitian Breeze Cafe. Rony invited a bunch of killer musicians to play live music for the guests, and we brought in a HUGE sound system. We ate, drank, laughed, and danced our way into the morning. Here’s a groove from the party.
Bob Meets Bob
Bob Rabbit meets Bob, a man with no real significance other than his name. This clip speaks to some of the light hearted interactions and conversations that we had in our daily outings.
Kids Playing Drums With Esteban
At the orphanage where Rony grew up, we sit and play music in the church. Esteban tries to warm up and get acquainted with the drum set before we record. What I love most about this clip is the excitement from the kids. They are SO excited to have us around, and can hardly contain their energy long enough for us to record anything. Esteban tries once more to warm up but the kids take the drum set over and create a beautiful noise.
Orphans Get New Shoes
This was by far the most impactful day of the trip for me. After playing music and having a delicious meal, we gave 3 suitcases full of shoes to the orphaned kids. The looks on their faces and the joy in their hearts is something that I have not forgotten, and when I listen to this it reminds me of the good that exists in this world. It reminds me of the innocence of children, and how a simple gesture can make such an impact in ones life. It gets me every time.
Haitian Church Concert
On Sunday, Rony brings us to a church concert that he is performing at. Esteban gets on stage and plays drums with the band – it’s amazing to watch! This is unlike any church service I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to many. The energy in the building is intense as we worship God through music. —- Later, Rony got on stage and honored us in front of the whole congregation. It was so special for all of us.
The Crew Gets Sponsored By Cliff Bar
The trip was filled with many laughs and light hearted conversations like this one of us searching for a Cliff Bar sponsor. LOL! We must have brought 100 Cliff Bars for snacks during the trip, and they were almost all gone. If you’re reading this Cliff… SPONSOR US!!!!
Hungover & Edgy
Everyone is hungover and edgy after Odson’s birthday party at home last night. As we wait to board our small boat out to sea, conversations break out and people get testy.
Powerful Church Dance
At the church concert, the young Haitian woman take to the stage for a powerful dance. Tears fall from my eyes as I take it all in.
On our last day, the Haitian waves seem to sound sweeter than ever. After our emotional interview with Rony, I stop for a moment to listen to the push and pull from the waves. They remind me that we too must eventually retreat, back to our lives and our homes in America, and then – just like the waves – return once again.
This is a project I had the pleasure of working on with my good friend Jackson Maloney. Jackson is a poet and singer songwriter living in Boulder, CO. We recorded the bulk of this record in a remote cabin in Red Feather lakes in two days.
My credits on the album are: Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, Mastering Engineer, Producer, Cover Art Designer, Photographer, and singing and playing Congas on a few tracks.
I hope you enjoy this heartfelt project from Jackson Maloney. Cheers!
I arrive at my gate early and grab a seat by the window. I’ve got my recorder with me so I set it up and get levels. I start to listen and everything else fades away…
Since I moved out to Colorado, I have been more or less without my family, so the chance to go home and be with them for the holidays is a breathe of fresh air. My brother Adam will be coming out from Florida the following day, and Kyle from San Francisco. We are to all be together at my parents house for Christmas – just like old times. I am very much looking forward to it.
As I sit here at my gate, waiting for my flight to board, I look around at all of the faces. I wonder where each person is headed. I wonder who awaits them, and what traditions they have, and how they will be greeted by their friends and family. I see a great mix of emotions in the faces of my fellow travelers. For most, the holiday is a time for joy, for family, and giving thanks. For some, it can be a time of great sadness, regret and envy.
When I close my eyes I hear a sea of sounds. A busy season it is indeed! As people get ready to settle into their flights, I’m reminded that I’m blessed to be going home, where my brothers and parents await my arrival. I am so grateful, that for me, this Christmas will be one full of joy and laughter. I know that I’m blessed beyond measure, and I say a prayer for those who don’t feel this way. My prayer is a simple one: for everyone to know this joy in their hearts, at least for a fleeting moment, if not for long at all.
“Flight 6714 to Oakland, now boarding.” Looks like I’m off. Merry Christmas to you all, I hope it’s a special one.
I awake in a sweat to the sounds of labor. Our hosts are busy preparing for us as we rest in our beds. For them, the hard ground and a few hours of sleep is sufficient. The ceaseless sun, however, does not rest, and we are back to our game of hide and seek. The smell of food fills my nostrils as I wonder through the house. “Bonjour Big Mitch,” says Medjina. “Bounjour,” I respond. They are all occupied with their own roles, each essential to making our stay here nothing short of exceptional.
I find my compadres scattered around the yard. Kevin is at the steps, reading from Leviticus with seriousness. Bob lays flat on his back, catching some extra Zzz’s. Esteban is still in bed, although most mornings I have found him under the shade stretching or meditating. The laughter from last night has lulled. For now, our hosts take care of business.
In a single swift movement, our breakfast, bathroom, laundry, and rooms are prepared. Returned back to their default state. Prestige bottles are fashioned in a neat pile across the yard. We’ve drunk them all. Odson toys with the new generator we bought yesterday; it will provide power for everything we need. The generator rumbles awake – so much for “super silent”… False advertising! Medjina picks at Kevin’s fingers. Lancia combs Rob’s messy hair. If Esteban were awake, he’d be receiving a head rub from Audjya.
Bill Evans plays in my ears, bringing a piece of home with me to the island. Reminds me of Rachel. I miss her. Esteban is up now. Smart man, he’s already drinking water. We all know today is a big day, we must take care of our bodies. I look back and the crew has disappeared, meaning only one thing: breakfast is ready. Time to eat.