Every month of May, during Haitian Flag Day weekend, thousands of loyal Haitian music lovers descend on the sun shine state of Florida from all over the world for the annual Haitian Compas Festival and its surrounding events. For four days straight fans have a variety of events to choose from that were carefully thought out by the organizers. With all the great festivities going on that weekend it’s hard to pick a party to attend however the actual festival is a “not to be missed.”
The Haitian Compas Festival usually takes place on Saturday, and has been referenced by Billboard Magazine as one of the largest outdoor events in the US. While the name may say Compas Festival; this event is anything but limited to Compas. Each year, a list of various Haitian and non-Haitian music artists take to the festival’s stage representing their genres from Compas, Racine, Zouk, Reggae, Rap Kreyol, Jazz and much more…
Like every Haitian gathering what’s a gathering without some of the best tasting Haitian food? Compas Festival and its organizers, Rodney Noël and Jean-Michel Cerenord run a local café & lounge (Moca Café) with a full restaurant in Miami but during Compas Festival they’re outsourced by the large amount of food vendors selling an equally large array of tasty Haitian cuisine.
If you’re like me… you’ll most likely take a stroll down the vendor’s lane and check out all the latest CDs, Haiti artifacts, new businesses within the Haitian community before retiring to my final spot to observe what will most likely be the talk of the town for the next couple of weeks.
This year the Haitian Compas Festival will be celebrating its 18th consecutive year anniversary; earning it the title… longest running Haitian outdoor event in the world. With that many years under their belt, one must wonder how they managed to pull it off. For the answer, OpaMusic.com decided to ask one of the co-founders, Jean-Michel Cerenord.
A little history on the festival…
Legends have it, Sweet Micky (at the time) used to hold an annual picnic in Miami with DJs and towards the end of the evening he would perform. In 1998, for one reason or another, Micky and Co didn’t host the annual event. Rodney and Jean-Michel took a liking to the idea of having an outdoor event but only this one would consist of various bands, artists, DJs and more. With that being said; the two decided to start their own outdoor event the following year in 1999.
The first Haitian Compas Festival took place on Sunday, 4th of July, 1999 and the second, on July 2nd 2000. The festival was originally held that weekend because of the vast number of albums released around that time of year however both years the festival was hit with heavy rain and needless to say; they were less than successful. By the third year, Rodney and Jean-Michel went back to the drawing board to figure out how can they better the event. After a sit down with some key players on their team; Rodney and Jean-Michel decided to move the festival to May to coincide with Haitian Flag Day weekend and the rest is history!
OpaMusic: What year was your favorite Compas Festival?
Jean Michel: It’s hard to say because there are a lot of factors to take into consideration.
OpaMusic: Fair enough, what was the best year financially and production wise?
Jean Michel: I don’t remember exactly but I would have to say the 5 or 6 year.
OpaMusic: What was the festival first ever “after party” lineup?
Jean Michel: T-Vice & Sweet Micky @ Bermuda Bar and Grill.
OpaMusic: Best lineup?
Jean Michel: 2008
OpaMusic: I agree! Do you ever wake up one day and say I’m going to quit all of this?
Jean Michel: Every single day!
OpaMusic: Ouch! Why?
Jean Michel: It’s a lot of headache putting such an event together but we can’t quit because Compas Festival has become bigger than us. It’s now a staple in our community.
OpaMusic: Have any major company ever approached you guys about buying or partnering with them?
Jean Michel: Yes that’s what the Sun Life deal was all about but it fell through.
OpaMusic: What happened?
Jean Michel: It was a deal that was too good to be true and we didn’t do our research.
OpaMusic: Would you still be open if another major company approaches you guys again?
Jean Michel: Sure we would, providing that the deal is right. If the person will care for it, preserve it and the price is right then why not.
OpaMusic: How do you plan on celebrating your 20th year anniversary?
Jean Michel: We’re still trying to get by this year.
OpaMusic: Do you remember all of the locations the festival was held at?
Jean Michel: The first one was held at Virginia Key Beach in Miami; second one Bayfront Park Amphitheater. We went back and forth between Bayfront and Bicentennial Park and in the past couple of year at Sun Life Stadium. This year we’ll be back at Bayfront.
OpaMusic: How did you guy meet?
Jean Michel: Rodney and I were doing business before we even met. We’re both from Port de Paix, Haiti and our uncles were not only best friends they too were invested in business together. They had a band at the time named Triomecs. Our uncles convinced us to also invest and manage the band.
OpaMusic: I know Rodney is the manager of Harmonik do you have a hand in that project?
Jean Michel: I’m involved in everything that says Noel & Cecibon. We do business together.
OpaMusic: According to zodiac expert it’s been said; Gemini and Libra is one of your most compatible matches, and in many ways one of the best matched couples in the zodiac. Is it chemistry or business?
Jean Michel: Rodney is my best friend so that should tell you…
[That concluded our conversation]
The Haitian Compas Festival will take place on Saturday May 21st this year. Event-goers from around the world are expected to gather at this year’s edition, which anticipates a large number of guests. People of all ethnicity and backgrounds are welcome to join in the fun, learn about Haitian culture, and enjoy a family friendly outing. For more info… visit compasfestival.net