We talk to Haitian dance music documentary producer Yasemin Denari Southworth to find out what inspired her to create a film exploring all aspects of the music scene on the small Caribbean island
The Haitian capital, Port-Au-Prince, is home to an emerging community of DJs and a growing electronic music scene. Around this emerging music community, a diverse audience of party-goers, hailing from all socioeconomic classes, has developed. Barriers dissolve once the electronic music starts playing, so that all Haitians, no matter their background, may dance and enjoy themselves together.
With Sounds of Solidarity: Haiti’s DJ Movement, electronic dance music authority Thump explores the capital city’s vibrant nightlife, and introduces you to some of the city’s most influential DJs. Learn about their unique sounds, motivations, and the growing nightlife phenomenon that has recently taken Haiti by storm.
The Story Behind Sounds of Solidarity
Yasemin Denari Southworth, the producer of Sounds of Solidarity, says the idea initially stemmed from an email exchange she had with one of her close friends, who had been an aid worker in Port-au-Prince from 2010 until 2012.
While living in Haiti, that friend had attended an upscale electronic dance music party headlined by Avicii, told Yasemin about it and how it was not just a one-off event, but something that was set to explode.
Yasemin soon discovered that electronic music and DJs (mainly Haitian but also DJs from abroad) were the focal points of this cultural party movement in Haiti. She decided that she wanted to learn more.
The idea for Sounds of Solidarity was researched, pitched, and developed over summer and Autumn 2013, then shot in late December, with Yasemin and the crew spending Christmas in Haiti. The reason behind the seemingly strange shooting time was that there are numerous DJ events going on every night during the winter holidays, in part because of the large Haitian diaspora that traditionally comes home at this time of year to spend time with family and party. As such, it offered a surplus of of shooting locations for Yasemin and the crew.
When asked what stuck out most to her during her time in Haiti, Yasemin declared that it was the safety she felt. Prior to arriving in the country, people who had visited Haiti were telling her that she would need an armoured car and personal security to ensure her safety.
The stereotype of Haiti was (and is) a very unsafe place and many people believed it was a bad decision to go there. Upon arriving and throughout the duration of her stay however, the producer found this was for the most part a cliche. She generally found the people to be extremely welcoming and hospitable, even in the poorest areas.
Although the electronic music movement first began in Haiti around 2008, it didn’t truly kick off until after the earthquake shook the nation, when DJs looked to dance to uplift and restore confidence to the people. The party scene kicked off about six months after the devastation and Haitians have never looked back, even though the fear is still at the back of their minds.
Despite taking a long time to produce and the team only had a week to film everything they needed, creating Sounds of Solidarity was well worth it to send a message to the world.
Not only does the documentary show the world Haiti is a safe, beautiful place, it also demonstrates that the Haitian people have a strong determination to succeed and inspire both their fans and society in everything they do.
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