Outside The Hype Of Miami Art Week, Local Haitian Musicians Reach Thousands of MDC Kids

Dec 6, 2019

With Miami Art Week in full swing, there’s a lot of art galleries and shows geared towards travelers descending upon South Florida. Some of the highlights have been a giant, contorted “Bent Pool” that arches over Pride Park, and a life-sized traffic jam sculpted out of sand near Lincoln Road. 

This Art Basel has also seen its share of spectators going bananas over a contemporary art installation entitled “Comedian.” It features a regular, ripening banana that was bought in a Miami grocery store and duct-taped to a wall. There are three editions of the banana-and-duct-tape ensemble on sale for around $120,000 each, according to the art gallery Perrotin. Two have already sold. 

But outside of the international art scene, one interactive Haitian folklore concert decided to focus on reaching over a thousand local Miami-Dade Public School kids instead. 

Dancer Tanayiz Bertrand performs "Ayiti: The Pearl of Antilles" on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.
Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN

Local musician and singer Inez Barlatier wants her family band’s show, “Ayiti, The Pearl of Antilles,” to teach kids about traditional Haitian music with live drumming and singing, colorful costumes and dances with various origins on the island. 

It’s all part of a Miami Theater Center program that’s funded by the county’s Department of Cultural Affairs. This week alone, nearly 1,500 MDC students have been bussed-in to see Barlatier and her family band for free. 

Barlatier, her father and musician Jan Sebon, and other local artists created this show to incorporate Haitian children’s music. 

“So my father and I collected songs that we knew from his childhood,” Barlatier said. 

“I’ve never seen a show celebrating Ayiti as a child, or only when I got older, I saw that,” she said.

Drummers perform "Ayiti: The Pearl of Antilles" for thousands of Miami Dade Public School students on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.
Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN

Throughout the concert, kids in the audience bounce up and get out of their seats to follow the drums and repeat back phrases in Creole. 

“Many children don’t know of these stories, or good stories of Ayiti, because a lot of times when you hear about Ayiti, you hear bad stories,” she said. 

The show also speaks directly to students like 7-year-old Sarah Francois, from David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center. Originally from Haiti, she said her family recently moved to Miami after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. 

Speaking in Creole, she talked about how much she loved the costumes, and how they reminded her of home. 

“When she was singing that song, it really made me think that I was playing outside with my friends in my backyard back in Haiti,” Francois said. 

The band is giving a public performance this Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Miami Theater Center.