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.
If you liked this, you may enjoy the Haiti Photo Album.