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MFA DSI Open Session

Ti Koze Tanbou Ayisyen (Haitian Drums Talk) with Jerome “Junior” Simeon and friends

January 18, 2024
MFA DSI Auditorium

Jerome Simeon, aka Junior Racine Mapou, had a 24-year career in one of Haiti’s most-loved roots music ensembles, Racine Mapou de Azor. Serving as the “right hand” to band leader Lenord Fortuné (Azor), Junior played a crucial role as not only a featured musician but also a master craftsperson and keeper of the group’s sacred hand-made Vodou drums known as “Tanbou Petwò” and “Bas.” He remains one of Haiti’s finest drum-makers and a custodian of a vast repertoire of traditional music.

As a kick-off of our MFA DSI Open Sessions and marking the start of our Spring 2024 semester, this special performance included a film screening of the documentary short film Junior about the career of Jerome Simeon, the role of the drum in Haitian culture, and the significance of the traditions of Haitian drumming among younger generations. The film’s director, AJ Wilhelm also joined the session and shared about the context of making the documentary and the impact of the work that Junior does.

The audience interacted with Junior’s drum creations up close and personal. Markus Schwartz (Lakou Brooklyn) shared a presentation about the sacred rhythms of Haitian Vodou function, drum families, repertoire, and ancestral traditions, offering insights about the drum’s fabrication, cultural significance, and spiritual domain in Haiti.

The session ended with a live drumming performance by Jerome “Junior” Simeon, along with esteemed percussionists Markus Schwartz & Ches Smith, two lifelong students of Haitian drumming. Followed by an audience Q&A about the cross-cultural impact of Haiti, we discussed Haiti’s history and the importance of intergenerational rituals.

Poster design by Hector “Chato” Ruiz (MFA DSI ’25)
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