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A ball for the Lwas

Frater Vameri

Pic by Lavinia Williams Yarborough.

There is a tradition in rural Haiti that is probably dying: the dances for the Lwas . A party given by families every five years (or something like that; imagine the costs!) for their family and land Lwas , but it's also a party that can be given more often, especially by Ougans and Manbos .

The curious thing about this party is that it usually includes two types of music and dance (at least): Menwat and Kongo. We'll talk briefly about these songs and dances, mainly about the first type, but the choice of one or the other will depend on who is giving the ball and the types of Lwas that will be served.

The ball starts inside the house or in a family building and the musicians play Menwat in front of a table prepared for the Lwas , which are set up especially for these occasions. On these tables will be objects and food for the Lwas . It is also important to note that these ceremonies do not require an officiating priest – the family is fully responsible for these balls. Of course, if there is a priest in the family, he can help, but it's not mandatory.

Menwat musicians salute the Lwas with drums, a violin with a very special tuning and some musical elements that denote a clear European heritage . Only when they are done do Kongo's musicians head to their own place – separate and away from the Menwat – and then begin to play. In other words, both musical groups play at the same time!

Also, among the activities of this ball, there may be lamps made with cotton in oil, the libation of drinks and the sharing of food between the people and the Lwas. After the music starts, it is common for the Lwas to join the party through possessions.

It is important to keep in mind that the Menwat song is for Lwas Blan's greeting. Although blan in Haitian Creole may mean “foreigner” and because musicians use European elements, it would be tempting to think that the hailed Lwas would all be European. However , this is not quite the case here, rather it refers to white – in the sense of purity. Something similar to the funfun orishas . It is interesting to note that in some regions Lwa Blan is almost synonymous with Ezili Blan – which would be an Ezili in opposition to the Black Virgin.

Although Kongo music may give the impression that it is only related to the Congo nation , this is a misguided notion. Kongo 's musicians play Rada , Ibo etc. rhythms .

This description of the dances was taken from the thesis “Music and dance of haitian vodou : diversity and unity in regional repertoires ” by D . Yuen- Ming Yih . I hope it was interesting for you to learn more and understand how Vodou is something very heterogeneous.

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