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Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince 2014

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By Shannon J. Effinger

Experiencing the rhythms of Haitian music for the first time in college was overwhelming to the senses. It was perhaps my first visceral connection to both jazz and my own Trinidadian heritage. My upbringing deprived me of the latter being culturally assimilated into the American culture.

Visiting Haiti for the first time in January brought back those memories and certainly created new ones at this year's International Jazz Festival of Port-au-Prince.

This year's line-up included acts from over a dozen different countries, including Benin's Lionel Loueke, Cameroon's Sandra Nkaké, even Haiti's own James Germain and Strings.

For a great many of the Haitian-American performers, including jazz vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles, this festival marked their first performance in the world's first black independent republic. Coupled with the fact that the festival occurred just four years after the devastating earthquake of 2010, the festival was indeed a rich, palpable experience felt by musicians and spectators alike.

In honor of Black Music Month in June, I've compiled concert clips and interview footage from this year's International Jazz Festival of Port-au-Prince to serve as a reminder that we must honor our rich past in order to forge ahead in this music.

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