Haiti’s most famous diplomat was very busy over the weekend in his native country. Wyclef Jean co-headlined the first Yele Festival with Akon; the event was the brainchild of the two recording artists and manager Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond.
The two-day event included a tour of Haiti for journalists on Friday and a concert fundraiser Saturday.
“We cater to the press, answering questions, visiting the children’s prisons [in Port-au-Prince], the schools,” Rosemond said Friday. ” … There’s not too much stuff to do in Haiti. For it to be a two-day event is even big in itself. We’re trying to do something with Yele like how [Reggae] Sunsplash was for Jamaica. This will be a yearly event. In between, we’ll have smaller shows and cap off every year around this time with some of the biggest artists in the world.”(Check out sizzlin’ photos from the fest right here.)
The Haitian-born Wyclef made a deal that he would perform in Senegal (Akon was born in St. Louis but raised in Senegal) sometime next year in return for ‘Kon performing in his homeland.
On Saturday, ‘Clef and ‘Kon rocked Haiti’s capital square, which Rosemond said is “as large as two football stadiums.” The trio are still awaiting final numbers as far as the size of the crowd and donations, which will go toward retaining counsel for inmates at Haiti’s children’s prisons and helping rebuild and provide supplies to schools damaged during the hurricane season.
“This has been an eye-opening experience for me,” Akon told MTV News via e-mail. “To meet the Haitian people in suffering and in celebration has made my mission clearer. I will use my blessings to help all impoverished people, and I know my people in Senegal will embrace Wyclef as his people did me.”
“The Haitian people came out in multitude, putting aside their suffering, politics and beliefs, to come see two of their favorite artists,” Wyclef said. “Akon is a true musician and artist, and I look forward to my journey to his native land of Senegal. … Not one person was hurt [at the concert]. This is proof to my fellow artists that our music can change and influence the world. Mission accomplished. The Haitian people have passed the test, and now we welcome you.”
“I am speechless from the overwhelming turnout for change in Haiti,” Rosemond said over the weekend. “We went back to the basics to prove a point: Music is a universal language. We know one free concert won’t change everything, but at least we’ve started something that may make a change. But I think what we all walked away with is a sense that it’s Haiti today, but it can easily be the world tomorrow.
“In order for us to heal the ills of Haiti, press have to know first that it’s safe to come there [to] document and expose the ills and the good stuff going on in Haiti,” he added. “The only thing you hear about Haiti is there’s a dictatorship. The only way we’re gonna get economic strength, we need the tourist dollars and for us to sell our art, sell our music. We need for people to see the wonderful country of Haiti. It’s been closed so long because of the bad press. We wanna expose some of the good stuff.”