In 2010, PeaceTones® went back to Haiti for our second project there, “Haiti Sings,” six months after the earthquake of January 12, 2010. We chose to return to Haiti because all the news coming out of Haiti at the time was of devastation, destruction and hopelessness, and was mainly told by Western news sources from Western perspectives. We wanted to hear Haitians talk (sing) about their own experiences of this life-altering event and also to find inspiring musicians who were giving their communities hope and solace in the midst of the devastation that, six months after the earthquake, still very much had Port-au-Prince on its knees.
Haiti Sings was the first time we democratized and digitized the process of selecting artists by migrating to an online contest format to incentivize artists’ exploration of online social networking and marketing, and also to create the greatest buy-in from the public at the beginning of the process, which has improved visibility for a greater number of artists.
As a result of this change, we had better publicity (e.g. interviews with PeaceTones® on Haitian National Television and Boston Public Radio International’s “The World”), greater numbers of participants in educational workshops, and a greater amount of international participation.
The only qualification requirements we had for the musicians auditioning were:
- the music they submit is their original work,
- that they are as yet unsigned with a label or manager,
- that their music has a positive social message, and
- that they attend all our workshops prior to recording their contest entries with us.
By opening up our process to many more musicians, we also ensured that more musicians got educated on the tools we are trying to teach. Holding the contest through Facebook also ensured that all the musicians engaged the marketing and self-promotion tools we taught them.
We recorded and posted music videos of twenty Haitian musicians and had them campaign for votes on their songs. This contest resulted in over 12,000 hits on the contest site from over 50 countries and saw our Facebook ‘likes’ quadruple. The winner of Haiti Sings, Wanito, has gone on to become a national star in Haiti, garnering rave reviews of his new album, produced by PeaceTones®, weekly radio and television appearances in Haiti, and hundreds of thousands of hits on his YouTube videos.
Self-taught and playing the guitar upside down, Wanito has both local and international audiences captivated by his music, unique blend of acoustic guitar, reggae and hip-hop with incredible ability to capture both the complex troubles and the simple pleasures of Haitian life. He sings about the deaths of loved ones in the January 2010 earthquake, the importance of safe sex, the political corruption that acts as a ‘traffic jam’ in the lives of Haitians, and the hope that one day, Haiti will see her day come. His lyrics not only give Haitians an honest reflection of their lives and struggles, it brings those stories to international audiences in a way that no news story or documentary can.
It is musicians like Wanito that PeaceTones® aims to find and support, so that they can continue to effect powerful change in the world through their art.