Last summer, we went to Port-au-Prince to run a project called PeaceTones Haiti Sings. After auditioning over sixty musicians, we chose 20 to be in an online competition, held a marketing and legal workshop for them and their families, and ran the contest last fall on Facebook. The contest was a great success in that we had several thousand votes, all twenty of the musicians, otherwise unknown, got global exposure. This Spring, we brought the winner of PeaceTones Haiti Sings, Wanito, to Boston to record his very first album, and we released his album on December 1st. Wanito has gained a massive following in Haiti, and is considered to be the biggest up-and-coming musician in Haiti today! When Executive Director, Ruha Devanesan and Development Director, Adam Berkowitz returned from a trip a few weeks ago to Port-au-Prince, they confirmed this fact with video clips from the streets of Port-au-Prince and from Wanito's album release party. Wanito's name is ubiquitous in Port-au-Prince and, as he tours the rest of Haiti and hopefully returns to the US soon for a tour, his powerfully positive message of hope and empowerment for Haitians will impact thousands more. Wanito represents the culmination of what we at PeaceTones have been working hard for these past few years. We want to produce more artists like him, who come from very resource-deprived backgrounds but have talent, a positive social message and the drive to lead social movements in their own communities through their music. We train and mentor these artists to help them succeed as best they can, because we understand the power of a strong social message through music and because we want these musicians to earn a fair income for themselves and their communities through their music.
We are so happy to see how far Wanito has come, and we want to thank you, the people who first funded Haiti Sings, for making all this possible!!
AN AMAZING WEEK IN HAITII recently returned from an amazing and productive week in Haiti. While there are many details to recount, I thought I would share with you the day I met with all of our musicians and some of the encounters I made. On my first full day in Haiti, I met all five finalists from our Haiti Sings contest at St. Joseph’s, a home for orphaned and displaced young boys in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The five finalists were: Bill Nathan, a drummer and mentor at St. Joseph’s; Ketsia Pantaleon, a powerful singer with equal parts sass and charm; Joly Wootrod, a young shy boy that lived at St. Joseph’s but who, with help of his guitar, would open up to the world with his simple rhythms and soft R&B styled voice; Gilles Widson aka GeeWee, a rapper and lyricist that is a student of history and philosophy and not afraid to ask difficult questions, both in his daily life and in his music; and Juanitho Louis Pascal Beaubrun, aka Wanito, who was the winner of the Haiti Sings contest and who has the ability to create music like most people form sentences. All the finalists had never really gotten the opportunity to meet each other so we took some time talking and getting to know one another. Everybody was quick friends. We then moved on to the business at hand and I began by giving a tutorial on many of the topics that were originally covered in the workshop from the previous summer, but also more in-depth about the specifics of music law and intellectual property. I made sure that everyone felt they could ask any sort of questions and that we would not move on until everyone was comfortable with the concepts we were discussing. The group took to each other extremely well by explaining to each other in their own terms and giving examples that better related to their own experiences. We then went over the recording and distribution agreements that had been previously sent to each of the finalists for their review. We began by talking about some of the major points and then going over every paragraph word by word taking turns reading. We would stop after each clause and ask questions. While some in the group were hesitant at first to ask questions, GeeWee was quick to break the ice by drilling me about all aspects of the deal. His inquisitive nature and probing intellect was a force to be reckoned with, but I sincerely appreciated it because it also engaged the rest of the group, who were more at ease to ask follow-up questions once GeeWee began drilling me. I suggested that maybe he should stop his sociology studies at university and look into law school. One of the major decisions to be made by the group was what percentage would be given to the community development project of their choosing. Given their present financial situations, they agreed to give 10% of the profits from album sales. We discussed possibilities for community projects and they talked about helping pay for the school tuition for some of the kids at St. Joseph's, buying music instruments for a local organization, or giving to a community project in GeeWee's neighborhood that performed various social services. Given the graft that they witness around them on a daily basis, they were adamant about making sure that the donee organization was legitimate and that giving in-kind gifts (tuition direct to school, buying musical instruments) rather than just handing over money would be preferable. They had an acute sense of the realities on the ground in Haiti, and how best to navigate them. Wanito had to leave early for a concert that night, and GeeWee wanted to read over the contract for a few days (I encouraged him to write down any additional questions he had), but Bill, Joly and Ketsia all signed recording and distribution agreements with PeaceTones. I then discussed the possibility of establishing a permanent ‘PeaceTones section’ in St. Joseph’s computer lab where individuals could reference materials to help them navigate marketing, selling, and using social networks online. I gave Bill several booklets of information as examples of the kinds of materials we could provide. Bill very much liked the idea and we are presently in talks as they continue to rebuild their center. I sincerely thanked St. Joseph’s for giving us the space to have our legal workshop and contract signing.We ended the day with, of course, music. They all took turns performing on various instruments and even did ensemble improvisational songs. They are all truly talented musicians. While I was able to complete the original objectives of the trip in a relatively efficient fashion (work with finalists and sign contracts), key introductions made the trip extremely more productive than originally anticipated and led us to the planning and establishment of the upcoming Author Rights Awareness Week which we are scheduling to hold in conjunction with Wanito’s album release in Haiti in mid-November. The week will feature both bottom-up (workshops, concerts and activities open to everyday artists and business) and top-down (working with the Ministries of Justice and Culture) initiatives to establish a greater culture of respect for intellectual property and the use of legal means for protecting oneself in business transactions. Some of my key contacts included:1. Pradel Enriquez, Director of Haitian National Television (TNH) and Radio (RTNH); noted Haitian author and poet. Mr. Pradel and I worked together to create a half-hour program on Haitian national television, dedicated to educating the Haitian public on the importance of IP, the role of contracts in protecting oneself in business transactions (specifically using the licensing agreement being signed between IBO and TNH as an example), and how stronger IP laws and a greater sense of rule of law in general would help to bolster Haiti’s economy. Since our program, TNH has committed to airing several additonal special programming events on author’s rights, promoting a culture of respect for the law, and the role of the public in demanding a greater sense of accountability from its government.2. Paul Villefranche, host of INDEX, a syndicated television program on Haitian culture, education, and news; former Presidential campaign manager for Wyclef Jean; musician. Mr. Villefranche was extremely receptive to PeaceTones work and has been pivotal in gaining buy-in from members of the Haitian Parliament for the Author Rights Awareness Week. He has also expressed a willingness to use his popular program and contacts within the music industry to gain broad support for the week-long awareness event.3. Franklin Dalembert, Executive Director of the Haitian Coalition of Somerville. Mr. Dalembert has worked with IBO to form a committee of Haitians in the legal, journalism, and government fields to help plan and lead the Author’s Rights Awareness Week which will take place in conjunction with the release of Wanito’s international debut album. Resumes of committee members are available upon request. The week was truly an absolutely amazing experience. If anybody would like to contact me to ask any additional questions, please do not hesitate. Best Regards,Adam Berkowitzadam@internetbar.org
Dear PeaceTones Donors,
We are pleased to update you on our progress with the PeaceTones Haiti Sings project and its winner, Wanito! As many of you know, Wanito arrived in Boston on April 8th, and successfully recorded his first studio album and performed at the following venues in both Boston and New York:
We are currently in the final stages of preparing his album (entitled "Biyografi Mwen) for release and will soon launch a campaign for Wanito's album release tour of the United States, so keep an eye out! In the meanwhile, please check our facebook page (www.facebook.com/peacetones) and our website (www.peacetones.org) for updates and pre-release specials like music videos, singles from the album and news from Wanito!
Thank you all for making this opportunity a reality for Wanito and all the other musicians who participated in Haiti Sings!
The PeaceTones Team
Dear PeaceTones donors,
Thanks to all of your help, we have successfully obtained Wanito's visa to travel to the United States and booked six events in Boston and New York for him to perform at! Wanito arrives in Boston on April 8th and will be here for three weeks, recording his studio album and performing at events. We have also arranged for museum trips and speaking engagements to enhance the learning experience both for Wanito and for audiences in Boston and New York to learn his incredible story.
If you are in the Boston/ New York area, please do come out to see Wanito perform and speak. He would love to meet the people who made his trip possible and thank you in person. If you are unable to make it to our shows this April, we will keep you posted on facebook and via email, to ensure that you can follow along on Wanito's journey!
To view Wanito's performance dates and RSVP, please visit: www.eventbrite.com/org/1016553409
To follow us on facebook and keep up with video, photo and status updates, please visit: www.facebook.com/peacetones
The PeaceTones team and Wanito thank you again from the bottom of our hearts!
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