In early November 2019, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology hosted a week-long residency of the Grammy-nominated Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans. Ten members of the ensemble traveled from Port-au-Prince to spend time at IU and with the broader Bloomington community, sharing their knowledge of Haitian culture, music, history, politics, spirituality, and environmentalism. Organized by Dr. Rebecca Dirksen and corresponding with the Society for Ethnomusicology's Annual Meeting held this year at IU, the band's residency included two major public performances: an appearance at the First Thursdays Festival at the IU Auditorium and a Friday evening concert at Alumni Hall in Memorial Union.
Despite the unusually cold weather, and an hours-long campus-wide power outage that sent everyone into a scramble on Friday until electricity was restored just an hour before the concert, both performances enjoyed large and enthusiastic crowds. On Friday, our Folklore and Ethnomusicology graduate students led the dancing and kept the audience charged up and on their feet.
The audience included members of the IU community, the Bloomington public, conference attendees with the Society for Ethnomusicology, and fans of Boukman Eksperyans who came from Indianapolis, Chicago, and even as far away as Los Angeles for this stateside event.
In addition, the Boukman Eksperyans residency included class visits to three of our undergraduate courses—F111 World Music and Culture (D. McDonald), COLL-C103 Music Changes the World (D. Reed), and F316
Caribbean Music, Sacred Ecology, and the Environment (R. Dirksen)—engaging more than 250 students in conversation. Partnering with the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, the band also gave an inspired presentation to 225 first and second graders at Unionville Elementary School and followed up the next day with a three-hour intensive dancing and drumming workshop with the IU African American Dance Company (directed by Baba Stafford Berry) and Folk/Ethno graduate students in the Applied Ethnomusicology graduate seminar (R. Dirksen). While here, selected members of Boukman Eksperyans were also featured in two separate public radio interviews, with DJ Adriane Pontecorvo of WFHB and producer/radio host Brother William of WFIU.
A third interview with the band was held for the Global Popular Music Platform at the Mathers Museum, in conjunction with the Sacred Drums, Sacred Trees: Haiti's Changing Climate exhibit, which featured some of Boukman Eksperyans' work.
This special residency was supported by a series of grants, awards, and in-kind donations from Global Popular Music Team/Mellon Platform Arts and Humanities Laboratory, College Arts and Humanities Institute, the IU Arts and Humanities Council, Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for the Study of Global Change, the African Studies Program, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, the Department of French and Italian, the African American and Diaspora Studies, African American Arts Institute, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and the Society for Ethnomusicology.