Haiti’s Michel Martelly: Wyclef’s Presidential Opponent Speaks

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Vibe / August 6, 2010

(ALLHIPHOPUnlike many other Third World countries in turmoil, Haiti is not plagued by warring factions or ideological conflicts. Haiti’s issue for the last few decades have centered primarily around a lack of funds and a lack of proper leadership. Over the last 15 to 20 years, the Haitian people have been subjected to political conflicts and economic stagnation rooted in selfish leadership which acted without true concern for the people or the development and progress of the island nation, which now lies as an embarrassment to its legacy as the first independent Black republic in the world. The January 12 earthquake which devastated Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and other towns on the island’s southwest side, dealt a final blow to the island’s international image. It revealed the nation naked exposing all the ills that had been plaguing its people. Now, with the first post-earthquake Presidential election in Haiti drawing near, many have speculated how to contend with the country’s current crisis as well as its legacy of socio-economic needs. Some have argued that Haiti needs a president who has a genuine desire to see the people do better. Wyclef Jean feels he fits that bill, but there is another. Enter Haitian musician Michel Martelly. 

Just days after celebrating the 22nd anniversary of his musical career, Martelly announced that he would submit himself as candidate in the 2010 Haitian presidential election, set to take place on November 28. But while Martelly, or “Sweet Micky” as his legion of fans knows him, has embraced his position as the “President of Compa,” he is much more reluctant to accept the title of “Presidential candidate.” In his first interview with American media since submitting his candidacy to Haiti’s Electoral Council, Martelly spoke candidly to AllHipHop.com about his country’s biggest problems, his goals for the people of Haiti and why he won’t be voting for his friend Wyclef Jean. —Tai Saint-Louis

AllHipHop.com: So give us a brief introduction so American audiences can understand who you are. 

Michel Martelly: I came into the music world in 1988 with a song called “Ooh La La,” that was like a breath of fresh air in Haitian music. Because back then, we had the old generation big bands of Compa, playing with 15 members; that concept was going down in Haiti. At the same time, bands from abroad, like Kassav, were coming out with Zouk, which is a genre from the French islands Guadeloupe and Martinique. So when “Ooh La La” came out, it was a breath of fresh air for the Haitian market. I rallied all the youth around me, all the people who liked Compa, but felt like it was dying, going away, being replaced with Zouk. So it became a movement. So, through the years, I’ve played my music with dedication, discipline and originality, and controversy also. Unlike the big bands, I was a one-man show for the first two years. And then I was joined by two more members. By then, I had captivated the heart of every Haitian in Haiti and abroad. Because of that, I felt like I was the only thing happening. People would travel with me just to listen to my music: they [come to a] dance tonight in Port-au-Prince and they’re with me the next day in Miami, just to hear my music. Around 1993-94, I proclaimed myself President of Compa. And because there was no objection, the title remains to this day. 

AllHipHop.com: Is the rumor that you are running for President of Haiti now confirmed? 

Michel Martelly: The rumor is confirmed, but I still don’t wanna put it like this, like I’m “running for President.” I don’t think it’s a good [aspiration], being President of Haiti. The last five-six presidents of Haiti have failed miserably. And I don’t think it would be an honor for me to say I want to be the next “president.” I want to be the man by with whom change arrives. Because, I think it’s definitely time. It’s time for the Haitian people to have access to education. It’s time for Haitians to have access to health care. It’s time to open our borders to the Haitian diaspora, open our markets to the world. It’s time to open our country to potential investors. It’s time to change our mentality, which [has become] self-destructive: we seem not to care about ourselves, we don’t care about our neighbors, our children. We seem not to care about our country. We’ve lost our sense of civic duty, of patriotism, our sense of pride. And the concepts of love, sharing, compassion, are the concepts that regulate a society; and they’re basic concepts. And I think it’s a must for us to have a mental revolution. And having a warm voice, being loved by my Haitians, I believe that if I assume the leadership to take them to where they ought to be, although it may not have been their plan; and with the assistance of a great team, a team that is well qualified and devoted, and that understands also that it’s time to change the direction in which the country is headed, I believe that I’ll be successful. That’s why I don’t want to be just a regular candidate. I want to be the man through whom change happens.

AllHipHop.com: What motivated you to enter the political arena?

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