by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Around 100 A.D., the Roman poet Juvenal remarked that Rome, its empire rapidly declining, was suppressing revolt through “bread and circuses.” President Michel Martelly, during his four years in office, has borrowed the Roman tactic, except without the bread.
Martelly, who as the musician “Sweet Micky” often dubbed himself the “President of Konpa” in Haiti’s famous Lenten Carnival, has organized three carnivals a year during his time in office. But with Haiti now in a full-blown electoral crisis and bracing to receive thousands of deportees from the Dominican Republic, this year, his son Olivier has taken over, or at least that’s how it appears.
Working with the promoter Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean), the husband of singer Alicia Keys, Olivier Martelly’s production company BigO is bringing rap superstars Lil Wayne and Chris Brown to Haiti for a free concert on Port-au-Prince’s central square, the Champ de Mars, on Fri., Jun. 26.
The event has been in the planning for several weeks but was only officially announced in a Jun. 21 BigO tweet.
Having learned about the planned concert early last week, Haïti Liberté spoke to many of the agents who work with Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. We discovered that, as a rule, the performers ask $1 million each for their performances outside of the U.S., although nobody knew what they would be paid for the Haiti performance. The artists will be flown to Haiti on a private jet, and, in an interview with Le Nouvelliste, Olivier Martelly said that there are “partners and other celebrities” traveling to the concert, which, along with special security measures, may put the event’s price tag close to $3 million.
The pair of rap superstars will arrive in Haiti on Jun. 25 for a dinner and reception at the Martelly family’s “Pink and White Foundation” and will get a sight-seeing photo-op tour. Money will be raised, according to Olivier Martelly, from “the sponsors [who] are going to put up a stand for the media and a limited number of guests. A part of the revenues will be given to a non-profit organization,” undoubtedly, his family’s foundation.
While millions are being spent on this concert, Haiti has a myriad of costly under-funded problems. Only $36 million has been raised of the $60 million budgeted to hold long-overdue municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections in August, October, and December. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent are now being deported from the neighboring Dominican Republic. The first waves of deportees have found absolutely no logistical support when dumped across the border, as started this week.
Olivier Martelly has been named in lawsuits and at least one aborted judicial investigation as one of the Martelly family members most benefitting from regime corruption, along with his mother Sophia. The lawsuit alleges he skimmed off money from some $6.2 million drawn from Haiti’s PetroCaribe account to go to a government sports agency he headed. Among other things, he bought a $115,000 sports car with the ill-gotten funds, the lawsuit charges.
Olivier Martelly defended the BigO concert, telling Le Nouvelliste: “Haiti has returned to the world tourist map of late. To receive these superstars is a huge publicity coup for us. Look at the comments on the Internet since the announcement, everybody is talking about it. I hope that everything goes well, that the public is entertained, and that together we can send a clear message saying that despite everything, we are a strong, united, and solidarity-minded people.”
But much of the reaction on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook was critical:
“#Haiti #Elections + #Deportations + #LilWayne + #ChrisBrown = #Problem” tweeted “IG Toggy97" in Kreyòl from St. Marc, Haiti.
The six hour concert is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and will include several other Haitian groups including T-Micky (another one of Martelly’s sons), Boukman Eksperyans, Barikad Crew, DRZ, Le Français, Baky, Roody Roodboy, Roodyman and Manno Beats, TPO, DJ Tony Mix, Valmix, K9 and DJ Nal.
Olivier said that “Chris Brown and Lil Wayne will each have a 60 minute set. Lil Wayne will be accompanied by his DJ, while Chris Brown will come with musicians and dancers. Other members of their team like make-up artists, sound engineers, and security agents will arrive a day in advance to prepare the ground.”
After their visit to Haiti, the two superstars will fly to Los Angeles, California for the BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards on Jun. 28.
Despite the hype and anticipation, outraged social media posts appear to outnumber those favorable to the event. “It doesn't matter how many people are suffering in Haiti or how bad the situation is, you can count on the [Martelly] government to spend [a] HUGE amount of money to provide entertainment BIG enough to distract everyone from the real problems,” wrote Marlon Lindor on Facebook.
“After this Lil Wayne/Chris Brown [event] and Carifiesta [a CARICOM supported festival from Aug. 21-30), I bet tourists will fight to go visit Haiti and everything will be alright,” he added sarcastically. “These [Martelly] government people act worse than the slave masters in my opinion, wasting money while the masses can't even eat.”