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  • Writer's pictureLouise Lindenmeyr

Night Opera

March 2nd, 2017 Marjofre, Commune de Grand Gosier, SE Haiti: For years now I have had a box seat at the night opera every time I sleep over in Marjofre.

Haitian spirits in the darkness.

Well, honestly to be more comfortable I retreat a row back into the dress circle, to my mosquito-netted bed just inside the open balcony door which overlooks the wout prensipal, or main drag of rock and dirt. The evening starts with a punishing mix of burnt out speakers blasting kompa or reggaeton backed up by the high pitched squeal of the generator that powers them. This is usually coming from directly under my bed, where sits the courtyard of the "Love People Bar Resto."

The racket is often punctuated with black-outs due to the blessed malfunction of the power source. By 9:30 the gasoline has run out and all that remains is the trilling laughter of a few drunk tenors as they inch their way off stage. I can hear silence for the first time in hours. Footfalls on the road below, sometimes just two - scrape, scrape on its surface, other times a shuffling lilt of hooves, a 3 against 4 rhythm, donkey or horse.

More silence. I hear a truck coming from way in the distance and above the baritone of the engine a choir of voices sings as they ride atop the load - hymns in brilliant harmony rising from peaks of charcoal and plantains. It reaches its climax as they approach my balcony and then fades rapidly, before I can get out of bed to see what passed.

More silence, maybe I fall asleep. Dogs begin to take the stage, one at a time, then in duets, trios, full chorus. Howling glissando, yappy staccato. Their pauses give way to some distant drumming - I check the time, its after midnight, and the houngan, the clergyman of the Vodou psyche, has begun to sing in the breath of the gods somewhere near here. Drums' deep voices. Soft call and response crescendoing and decrescendoing, carried capriciously to me by the wind. This goes on for hours as I deliciously drift in and out of consciousness.

The cock's aria is always the first to waken me - one shrill joker decides to disturb the peace with his hoarse solo that is then answered by a resounding chorus of atonal wannabes. The pigs' snorts, the donkeys' toothy gasps, the choking gurgle of a motorcycle trying to start, bring this fine performance to a close as dawn arrives.

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