fre o (ttbb)
The Republic of Haiti was created in 1804 by slaves who revolted against France, believing the message of the French Revolution, that all people are free and equal, was as true for the black man as it was for the white man. Modern Haitians are descended from generations of intermarriage between a variety of West West African beliefs. Voodou is practiced mainly by poorer, rural Haitians as a way of creating a collective community between the extended family and the nature spirits that they believe respond to singing and dancing. These Haitians are also Christians who believe in one God. The Voodou spirits appear and are pictured in similar ways to Catholic Saints and are used as symbols representing the various human aspects and emotions. Voodou spirits are worshiped through singing, dancing, and drumming. I have watched as the music at these gatherings creates a sense of warmth and security in a community that helps people become completely free to express themselves, revealing the true dignity of the human spirit. It is this sense of freedom, community and expression of human emotion that we all seek through group singing and music whenever or wherever we live.
I heard a village in Haiti sing Frè O and was overcome with the power of this expression of grief. As a man lies dying from illness, his relatives appeal to the Voodou spirits Dambala, the serpent, and Ayida, the rainbow. These married spirits are very old images brought from West Africa to Haiti and symbolize our connection to the past, the present, and the future, which we feel more strongly in the face of impending death. I hope the beauty and the simplicity of the music speaks for itself. I have suggested some percussion parts below, but the piece works equally well a cappella.