Arcade Fire star Regine Chassagne has spoken out about her return to Haiti for the band’s recent Port-au-Prince concert, revealing she was overcome with the support locals gave her and her band mates.
The Canadian rocker’s parents left Haiti before she was born, but she has always had ties to the nation and jumped at the opportunity to film and play there as part of an upcoming Arcade Fire documentary.
The band wanted to raise the profile of Haitian musicians, like Ram, the band they hit the road with last year, left devastated by last year’s earthquake.
She tells Britain’s The Observer newspaper, “It was last summer when we invited Ram to Quebec City to play with us at a festival. Over that weekend we became friendly with many of the group.
“I remember eating dinner in the catering area and noticing one of them had a distant look on his face. I realized he was looking at the festival’s catering tent, which was bigger and nicer than the one he lived in. Many of the musicians in this amazing band are still living in tents in Port-au-Prince, more than a year after the earthquake.”
Chassagne admits there’s a real spirit of hope in the Haitian capital – and the show Arcade Fire performed there was one of their best: “The monitor set-up here sounds better than what we had on the Funeral tour… We have definitely had worse sound in fancier places… People pulled out all the stops.”
Ram also joined them onstage at the Port-au-Prince show.
Michael Hogan for Vaninty Fair nominates Arcade Fire for championing Haiti.
Because Régine Chassagne, whose parents escaped the brutal regime of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and relocated to Montreal in the 1960s, was a passionate advocate for Haiti long before this year’s earthquake made it the celebrity cause du jour. because Arcade Fire, the band she co-fronts with her husband, Win Butler, began donating to Haiti with its first tour, in 2005, when a series of benefit concerts raised $22,000. Because, after discovering Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Harvard doctor Paul Farmer and the organization Partners in Health, which operates 12 hospitals outside Port-au-Prince and employs 5,000 Haitians, the band established a “one dollar, one euro, one pound” touring policy, donating one unit of currency for every ticket sold. Because they had the N.F.L. pay Partners in Health for the right to play the song “Wake Up” during Super Bowl XLIV. Because by the end of last year Arcade Fire, whose much-anticipated third album, The Suburbs, comes out this month, had helped raise more than $800,000 for Farmer’s organization. Because Chassagne and Butler, in 2008, went to Haiti and performed at Partners in Health’s facilities. Because Chassagne, alarmed by the chaos bred by thousands of NGOs working in isolation, and often at cross-purposes, is helping to launch Kanpe (Creole for “to stand up”), a project to coordinate nonprofits in the battle against poverty. “We have to be organized,” she says. “We have to do better by Haiti.”
Based in Canada, Arcade Fire have an international perspective. Taken from their first album, ‘Haiti’ was an emotional salute to the homeland of Regine Chassagne.
One of the poorest areas of the Caribbean, Haiti was struck by an earthquake last year. Leaving the tiny island nation devastated, Regine Chassagne wrote a blistering article about the events.
Raising money for charities working in Haiti on their recent British tour, Arcade Fire have already made several donations to aid workers. Vowing to raise $1 million for those remaining on the island, the band are now set to travel to Haiti.
Sources: Contact Music/ Robin Murray for Clash Music/ Michael Hogan for Vaninty Fair