For those of you who may not know, Konpa Direk is Haiti’s most popular genre of music. It is the legacy of two great Haitian musicians –Weber Sicot and Nemours Jean Baptiste. This is the music the majority of the Haitian people play at social gatherings (parties) and blast in their cars. When these two men created Konpa, however, I am not sure they had women in mind. So the question is, after a little over fifty years since the creation of Konpa Direk, is there a future for women in this music business?
Konpa is yet to be a comfort zone for women. It is a male-dominated world with only a few women struggling, despite all the humiliations they are being victim of, to gain some degree of recognition. From Cleo, Georgie, Mei Mei and Saida of Hangout to Sandra of Zin and Stacey of Tempo, the women have not been given the respect they deserve. For the most part, they are being “sexploited,” sexually harassed and/or treated as second class artists.
I’ve heard many people making the argument that if you dream of having a long-lasting band, keep the women away; the moment they integrate the band, trouble will surface. The men will be competing against each other to see who will be the first to knock her out or sleep with her. And once you have band members competing against each other over matters that have nothing to do with music, unity and esprit de corps, essential elements for the band’s success, will be greatly impacted. That alone will suffice to place the band on the verge of disorganization, chaos and destruction.
If the aforementioned reality really exists inside the Konpa bands, I think management is slacking in its duty. The job of the manager of the band, if I may, is to set the guidelines as to what behaviors are appropriate and what are not. In other words, the job of the manager is to come up with policies that would praise good deeds and punish misconduct. When you have mediocre folks that don’t know what they are doing managing these bands, of course, you can expect the women to be treated like pieces of meat for all the men to prey on.
Is there a future for women in this business? I am very hopeful that things will change for the better for women. But that won’t happen until management can step up to the plate and lead these bands with an impeccable level of professionalism. I am also hopeful that things will get better for these women when they (the women) start realizing that favoritism can only take them this far. Should they integrate these bands, the decision should be made on the basis of talents and merit, not favoritism. If it is based on favoritism or solely on their good looks, they will have to sell their dignity by making hideous concessions only to secure their positions.