Gardy Girault is one of the trailblazers of Haiti’s electronic dance music (HEDM) scene. We talk to him about Rara Tech – the music genre he created – and what being Haitian means to him
What comes to mind when you close your eyes and picture the Republic of Haiti? For many people it is a country that was torn apart in 2010 by a horrific 7.3 magnitude earthquake, but there is so much more to this alluring island that we have yet to discover.
There is something enigmatic happening in this small yet diverse Caribbean country. Sounds are emerging from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince that are exotic, fresh and inspiring and one of the DJs in the centre of this vibrant movement is Gardy Girault.
Gardy Girault is the creator of Rara Tech, a sub-genre of house music that infuses traditional Haitian Rara sounds with house music, to create a diverse musical style for an energetic and intrigued audience.
We grabbed some of Gardy’s time to discuss the innovative music genre and also, what being Haitian means to him.
JustGo: Can you tell us about the diverse Haitian music scene and how it’s been developing and growing since the devastating 2010 earthquake?
Gardy Girault: Here in Haiti we have many musical genres. All derived from the same exotic, organic, original sound. Whether it is Kompa, Rasin, Rara or Twoubadou, they have all been developing in recent years.
The earthquake is not the main reason for the development and the growth of the Haitian music scene, it is rather the inevitable globalisation phenomenon. Technology gave us easy access to the world, and the world was granted access to us, thus causing the evolution of the music. Like most existing musical genres, ours has evolved the same way.
Music and art are the greatest solaces and escape for the Haitian people. Our culture is our true strength and that’s something that our leaders are slow to understand.
JustGo: What made you want to get involved in the upcoming documentary on Haiti’s DJ movement?
Gardy Girault: I naturally participate in anything that can enhance and beautify the image of our country to the world, including social movements, music and documentaries, so when I was asked to be part of the piece, I instantly said yes.
JustGo: How would you define your music? Do you think your background as a Haitian in the electronic music scene gives you an advantage because you’re bringing something fresh to the music scene?
Gardy Girault: My music is a fusion of the traditional music of my country and electronic music (house music). At the beginning, it was hard because I was the only one DJ living in Haiti to go that route. Fortunately, patience, perseverance and hard work pay off. Now I think [being Haitian] could be an advantage and as the saying goes, every little bit helps.
JustGo: How did you get started as a DJ? What inspires you?
Gardy Girault: Thanks to my parents, music has always been present in my life. I took music lessons from a very young age. I loved the violin and used to create mix tapes for my friends when I was a teenager and I had a good collection of vinyls.
I never really wanted to DJ professionally or in public since I had many obligations. But one day I went to a club and my DJ friend Didi Moscoso was on the decks. At one point he asked me to hold for him because he had an emergency.
Then, timidly, I had to discover the joy of making people dance. It was an indescribable feeling. I’ve always been itching to come with that new sound. Since then everything has changed for the better.
My inspiration can come from anything: my family, places, people, Haïti, states of mind, sounds…
JustGo: How would you describe the audience that you are playing for? What do they expect from you as a DJ?
Gardy Girault: In general, the audience I’m playing for is very energetic, curious and eager for new sounds. They are on a quest for new musical experiences and are always beautiful and full of positive vibrations. I feel really thankful for that.
I think they expect me to take them on a musical journey full of vibrations. To play them stuff that they know, and some stuff that don’t know and keep the energy level up during the whole set.
JustGo: What are the defining factors of the Haitian electronic music scene and why should music lovers be listening to Haitian dance music?
Gardy Girault: It depends on what you define as Haitian electronic dance music (HEDM). I define my music as HEDM since I consider it as the house music of Haiti (our electronic sound), and then we have the imported EDM. I think both play a crucial role in the musical and cultural scene here Haiti, showing our evolution and our global integration in this new era of electronic music.
JustGo: What makes the Haitian electronic music scene different from other locations across the globe?
Gardy Girault: The EDM scene in each country has its own identity and flavour. From South Africa, India, the United Kingdom to America, you can have different experiences. The fact that we are a third world country in the middle of the Caribbean surely gives our scene a unique and organic yet disconnected warm taste. But I have to say that it’s not so popular yet, Haiti is not only Port-au-Prince.
JustGo: Ten years from now, what hopes do you have for the HEDM scene?
Gardy Girault: I hope that we will have our own identity, and people around the world will want to come to experience it.
The growing DJ movement within Haiti has brought together people from diverse backgrounds, and it’s also generated enough interest to film a documentary. Sounds of Solidarity: Haiti’s DJ Movement is a captivating docu-film that explores the Haitian peoples’ love of music, arts and unwavering passion for life.
When it comes to HEDM, it’s not just your ears that you are opening, but your heart. In a truly inspirational place an uplifting sound has emerged that deserves attention.
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