Rasin is a musical movement that began in Haïti in 1987 when musicians began combining elements of traditional Haïtian vodou ceremonical and folkloric music with rock and roll. This style of modern music reaching back to the roots of vodou tradition came to be called mizik rasin ("roots music") in Kreyòl or musique racine in French. In context, the movement is often referred to simply as rasin or racine.
Rasin bands combine the vodou ceremonial and folk music traditions with rock and roll. The Haïtian vodou musical tradition includes "cool" rada rhythms often associated with Africa and the "hot" petwo rhythms that speak of a New World, and rasin bands incorporate both styles in their music, although rarely in the same song. On top of the basic horn and drum rhythms, melodies are layered that include structure from rock and roll, punk music, and American pop music. Typical rasin instrumentation can include a variety of drums (including distinct rada and petwo styles), rara horns, electronic keyboards, electronic drums, electric guitars, an electric bass, and one or more vocalists.
Most rasin song lyrics are written in Kréyòl and often incorporate traditional vodou ceremonial lyrics or poetry. Song can speak to traditional vodou themes such as spying and betraying, feeling lost or estranged, the need for judgement and justice, or the urge to reconnect with an ancestral homeland. Some rasin songs are based on prayers directed to particular lwa, or Gods, while others may be ballads relating vodou mythology. Many songs contain multiple layers of meaning, and can be interepreted as social or political commentary. Songs often emphasize spiritual messages of tolerance, faith, justice, and universal love. The music is upbeat and rhythmic and, like vodou ceremonial music, intended for dancing.
The mizik rasin movement in Haïti began not long after the exile of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1987. Under the regimes of Jean-Claude and his father, François Duvalier, the government appropriated for itself the authority of the vodou religious traditions and made extensive use of religious leaders and traditions to assert its brutal authority and impose order. When Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country, a wide-spread dechoukaj uprooted the most oppressive elements of the former regime and liberated the vodou religion from its entanglements with the government. Unable to do so under the Duvaliers, musicians were eager to adopt traditional vodou folk music rhythms, lyrics, and instrumentation into a new sound that incorporated elements of rock and roll, punk music, and American pop music. The movement also attracted Haïtian-American artists and members of the Haïtian diaspora who returned to the country following the downfall of the Duvaliers.
Rasin bands often write and perform songs that contained political messages. "Ke'm Pa Sote" by Boukman Eksperyans, whose song title translates to "I Am Not Afraid" in English, was the most popular song at the 1990 Carnival in Port-au-Prince and was widely understood to be a criticism of the corrupt military government of General Prosper Avril. First performed during the 1992 Carnival in Port-au-Prince, just months after the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by a military coup d'etat, RAM began regularly playing a song entitled "Fèy", the Kreyòl word for "leaf". The song lyrics were of folkloric vodou origins. Despite no overt references to the political situation, it was widely played on the radio and immediately taken up throughout the country as an unofficial anthem of support for Aristide. By the summer of 1992, playing or singing the song was banned under military authority, and Morse was subjected to death threats from the regime.
|1996||RAM||"Fèy" ||Aïbobo||Censored by Haïtian military, 1992-1994|
|1997||RAM||"Zanj" ||Puritan Vodou||Rara horn and petwo drum instrumentation|