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WXPN has launched Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms & the Music of New Orleans, a year long project that will explore the continuing impact Haiti has had on the Crescent City. The project launches with a nationally-distributed three-hour documentary on February 1, hosted by Haitian-American and New Orleans-based musician Leyla McCalla, a founding member of Our Native Daughters and the GRAMMY award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms and the Music of New Orleans is a compelling story that is being told through a website, radio documentary, and a series of special musical, theatrical and community events.

Scheduled for May 2021, the live theater event and Philadelphia premiere of Breaking the Thermometerto Hide the Feverwill be presented at Fringe Arts in Philadelphia. Combining storytelling, video projection, archival audio, and dance, it is set to new music by Leyla McCalla, and directed by another New Orleans-based artist, Kiyoko McCrae. The performance recounts the legacy of Radio Inter-Haiti, the country’s first privately-owned, Creole-language radio station and the assassination of its owner, Jean Dominique, in 2000, interspersed with McCalla’s own personal story.

Various virtual Kanaval music events are planned to take place during summer 2021 and as part of the 2021 XPoNential Music Festival, which is scheduled for September 17th through the 19th of this year.  The project will culminate in a Philly Krewe du Karnaval Ball extravaganza featuring Haitian and New Orleans bands including Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Lakou Mizik, Boukman Eksperyans, RAM, and others, and is scheduled for late 2021 / early 2022.

As part of its outreach efforts to the local Haitian community,  WXPN has assembled an advisory group to help coordinate events and facilitate conversation supporting this project.

“As we’ve done with our Peabody Award-nominated Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul project and previous ones examining Mississippi Blues and Zydeco Crossroads, our Kanaval project is an in-depth and lengthy exploration of an important yet often overlooked contributor to modern popular music,” said WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay. “The history and influence documented in Kanaval is an important but largely untold chapter in Black history and through it, we hope to help change the unjust narrative about Haiti as a nation of poor immigrants to one that has contributed significantly to our music and culture.”

Major support for Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms & the Music of New Orleans has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Wyncote Foundation.

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