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Haitian with Emeline

Haiti’s music reflects the different groups that have lived on the island, melding French, Spanish, African, and indigenous influences. There are many different styles of Haitian music. Perhaps the most popular and culturally significant is compas, a complex dance music characterized by the signature tanbou beat. These popular genres grow directly out of Haitian folk traditions, with many folk elements incorporated into contemporary pop music.

Emeline’s original music fuses the traditions of her home country with elements of jazz, blues, and R&B, and has lyrics sung in both English and Haitian Creole. She began singing with a gospel choir in Gonaïves, Haiti, where she spent her childhood. After studying at the Detroit Jazz Center, she returned to Haiti where her career blossomed. Now based in New York, Emeline is known as a respected voice for social issues concerning women and children worldwide.

Meet Emeline!

Introduce your students to Emeline with this “Meet Emeline” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Emeline and the other Fall Semester artists.


Cap-Haitien, Haiti
Lesson 1: Learning “A.K.I.K.O.”
Students learn the chorus to “A.K.I.K.O.”; explore the concept of melodic variation; and create their own rhythmic chant.
View of trees in a Haitian landscape
Lesson 2: Learning “Panama Mwen Tombe”
Students will learn to sing “Panama Mwen Tombe,” discuss rhythm and beat, and learn about the tanbou drum.

Resources for Teachers

The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.



New York City Resources

  • Flatbush, Brooklyn has a large Haitian population.
  • Haitian Cultural Exchange, a nonprofit organization in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that develops, presents, and promotes the cultural expression of the Haitian people
  • Radiosoleil.com, an internet radio station that distributes news for the Haitian community

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