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9357: Re: 9303: Ra-Ra (fwd)
Hi Martha! Let me tell you a little bit about Rara, it's the most fun I've ever had in my life. :-)
Rara begins in the weeks following Carnival, and culminates on Good Friday. Different regions of Haiti have different customs during the Rara festival, but in general Rara bands are composed of members of Vodou peristyles, or in some cases Sanpwel groups.
Rara gives us a way to show our strength. Each peristyle, each band, is showing how many able-bodied men and women we can mobilize, how much we can spend on instruments and costumes. We sing Vodou songs in the streets and the rural paths, publicly - at the top of our lungs, really!
In the Artibonite Rara bands are just huge, they can include over a hundred members, with subdivisions for children, adult women, young men, mature men, and so on. Artibonite Rara participants wear special costumes - women wear dresses which open down the front, and lots of frilly underwear underneath, men wear a sort of apron, leggings, knee socks, and capes with lots of spangles and glitter, all topped off with hats festooned with streamers of cloth and more glitter.
In the Leogane area (which is better known only because it is nearer Port-au-Prince, Leogane can't compete with the Artibonite when it comes to Rara) the bands are led or accompanied by a "majo jonk" who wears a heavily sequinned costume and juggles a baton. (Artibonite Rara bands have jugglers, but they juggle machetes!)
In Jacmel, the leader of a Rara band is called "lame" (lah-MAY), the Army, for some reason I have yet to figure out. This person wears a sort of skirt composed of dozens and dozens of satin scarves of various colors. In Jacmel Rara bands perform "bat bwa" (beat wood) routines, dancing with batons which they smack together in a sort of mock combat, in honor of the lwa Grand Bwa.
Why do Rara bands sometimes turn violent? Well... this does happen, rarely, and part of the reason is because Rara includes some heavy drinking sometimes. Get a lot of drunken men together, in any country, and there will be a fight.
In other cases, especially in the Artibonite, peristyle membership follows family lines, and families are constantly feuding with other families over land. There have even been killings during Rara in the area of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite.
If you are traveling during Rara and your car is blocked by an oncoming band, don't panic, don't roll up the windows, don't look frightened. Open the windows wide (stow valuables under the seats), smile, bounce to the beat, and give a little money. The band will then courteously open a way for you to pass. But if you try to bull your way through, lean on the horn, act aggressive, then you could have a problem, right? Enjoy Rara - remember, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
There are two sections on The VODOU Page dealing with Rara:
Rara in the Artibonite - http://members.aol.com/mambo125/rara.html
Vodou Fun in Jacmel Rara - http://mamboracine.tripod.com/jacmrara.html
This year, if you can visit Haiti for Rara, do it! And bring twice as much camera film as you think you will need - it's really spectacular! See you there.
Peace and love,
Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen
"Se bon ki ra" - Good is rare
The VODOU Page - http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html
(Posting from Jacmel, Haiti)