Local band Jazzy Star 202 perform at Gwog Barill in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, as part of the 16th PAP Jazz international music festival weekend Saturday, January 21, 2023. Photo by Rejy Roc
Local band Jazzy Star perform at Gwog Barill in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, as part of the 16th PAP Jazz international music festival weekend Saturday, January 21, 2023. Photo by Rejy Roc


Explore the musical genres of Haiti, including contredanse, rara, raboday, cadence rampa, rasin and twoubadou.

Editorial note: AI contributed to the authorship of this article and was edited by Vania André and Macollvie Neel.

As New York City gears up for the West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day, it’s a perfect time to explore and appreciate the rich diversity of Caribbean music. The rhythms of the islands will be on full display during Brooklyn’s carnival celebration, which brings out Haitian bands and dancers among the massive revelry.

When it comes to Haitian music, the first thing that comes to mind for many is konpa, which was first popularized by pioneers Nemours Jean-Baptiste and Webert Sicot, along with artists like Tabou Combo and System Band. For others, it’s mizik Rasin, the roots style popularized by the likes of Boukman Eksperyans and Ram.

However, “Haitian music” is much more than that. It’s a tapestry of diverse genres as varied as the cultures and peoples that make the country a true model of what it is be creole, a mixture of parts that each come with its own unique history and significance. Here’s a snapshot of Haitian genres, including the lesser-known, that have played an integral role in shaping the country’s vibrant musical landscape.

Genres appear in alphabetical order.

Cadence rampa: Cadence rampa, also known as cadence-lypso, is a unique genre that originated in Dominica, but gained popularity in Haiti as well. It combines elements of Haitian konpa with Dominica’s cadence, and enjoyed significant success in the 1980s.

Contredanse: The contredanse, spelled sometimes “kontradans,” this country dance originated during the colonial era. It blends European and African musical elements, featuring a mix of lively fiddle tunes, syncopated rhythms and call-and-response vocal patterns. 

Konpa: Konpa is one of the most popular and iconic genres of Haitian music. Emerging in the 1950s, konpa combines elements of African rhythms and European ballroom dance to produce a music style reflective of Haitians’ French, African, indigenous, and Spanish backgrounds. Pioneers like Nemours Jean-Baptiste and Webert Sicot modernized the sound by adding piano, saxophone and more drum set. Sung over a constant two-step beat, the songs are typically recorded in French or Haitian Creole, a language based largely on 18th-century French with influences from Portuguese, Spanish, English, Taíno and West African languages.

Mizik Evangelik: Mizik evangelik refers to Christian praise and worship music that has become widely popular in Haiti. It features uplifting gospel lyrics and a lively sound incorporating rock, hip-hop and rara influences. Many evangelical music groups have gained devoted followings, performing in churches and concerts across the country. The growth of this genre reflects the significant impact of evangelical Protestantism in Haiti.

Mizik Vodou: Mizik Vodou is devotional music and chants with call-and-response elements, drumming and communing with the spirits, lwa  in Creole, during ceremonial rituals and celebrations. The style inspired mizik rasin, which emerged in the 1970s with artists incorporating acoustic guitars and socially-conscious lyrics.

Raboday: Raboday is a fusion of rap, hip-hop and electronic dance music with traditional Haitian rhythms that has gained popularity in recent years. Its catchy beats and often socially-conscious lyrics have resonated with the younger generation.

Rara: Rara is deeply rooted in the Lenten season, particularly around Easter. It is characterized by vibrant and energetic processions in the streets, where musicians play trumpets, kone, maracas and drums, among other instruments. Rara often incorporates themes of spirituality, Haitian history, and social commentary into its lyrics.

Rara Tech: Rara tech is an innovative fusion of traditional rara with modern electronic elements. The genre incorporates electronic beats, synthesizers and digital effects, while still maintaining the essential spirit of rara. Rara tech represents the intersection of tradition and technology, appealing to a diverse audience both in Haiti and beyond.

Twoubadou: Twoubadou reflects the country’s tradition of acoustic guitar-driven melodies and poetic storytelling lyrics. Twoubadou showcases the country’s folkloric essence and rural roots, with songs that often touch upon themes of love, nature and everyday life.

Macollvie J. Neel, a writer and communications consultant, serves as executive editor of The Haitian Times. She is the founder of Comms Maven LLC, a consultancy that helps mission-driven professionals and organizations tell their stories in workplaces and media spaces.

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