Kamarad Bonjou Pa Zanmi: Understanding RAM’s “Se Pa Sa’w Te Di”

I’ve been obsessed lately with RAM’s 2014 Kanaval so I thought I’d break it down a bit, by examining a few lyrics. In true RAM fashion, this song celebrates Haitian history, culture, and vodou. It combines 3 traditional vodou songs to make a terrific social commentary.

"Papa Loko ou se van pouse n’ ale. Nou se papiyon n’a pote nouvèl ba yo. Loko tout sa ki fè nou byen na wè yo. Loko tout sa ki fè nou mal, na wè yo."
Papa Loko was the first Houngan. He is the father of all Houngans and Mambos, and highly respected by all. It is often said that Loko is the wind, or like the wind. Thus he is able to hear anything he so desires. He is associated with the beautiful butterfly and no secret is unknown to him. In this song, the singer is also asking Papa Loko for help distinguishing between those who wish her well and those who don’t.
"Kouzen se pa sa’w te di mwen. Ou te di m’ konsa jou’w plase avè m’, ou ap marye avè mwen. Nan pwen wòb nan pwen jipon. Granmesi, yon pye mango ki te gen anba a ki sove lavi mwen.
This song is about disappointment. Here, the singer’s cousin with whom she was living, and whom had promised to marry her has not delivered on his promise. Luckily the singer has found a mango tree that has helped her provide for herself.
"Chwal mwen sele nan gran chimen, bonjou sese bonjou kanmarad. Kanmarad bonjou pa zanmi ey. Ki mele’m avè yo."
In rural areas, many families live in a lakou. This lakou borders a gran chimen or a main road. Here the singer’s horse is on the road, ready to go. Someone greets them but they know that this person does not wish them well.

It is important to note the backstory of this song: Richard A. Morse (the lead singer of RAM), is the cousin of Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly. Richard used to be an advisor to the president. However, after noticing the amount of corruption he realized that Martelly was not interested in the good of the country but rather his own personal wealth. Richard became disillusioned and quit. So this song is not only about his disappointment in his cousin, but also realizing you cannot trust everyone. If anyone has alternative theories or explanations, I’d love to hear them.

 **also, during the keyboard & rara breakdowns, me = ALL THE GOUYAD! The ancestors take over ya’ll! M’ sanlè demonte ren mwen! Ya’ll don’t even know!**

Edit: Richard (@RAMHaiti) tweeted me a correction: Kouzen/Cousin, above, is a reference for Kouzen Zaka, the lwa associated with agriculture in Haitian vodou.


Wear Sunscreen: Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.

June 1, 1997

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-
weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be
Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of
wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't
entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The
long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the
rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering
experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust
me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way
you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you
really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're
behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing
this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The
most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with
their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you
won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on
your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself
too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are
everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what
other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be
nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold
on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in
Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will
philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe
you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.
Mary Schmich



Book: James Mollison's "Where Children Sleep"

James Mollison traveled around the globe and took some incredibly eye-opening photos of children’s bedrooms. He then compiled them into a book, titled Where Children Sleep. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the child’s story. The differences between each sleeping space is striking.

To help, visit Save the Children
To buy: Amazon


Food for Thought: Jaime Morrison Curtis

There is no "man's work." You can change a tire, build a fire, take out the trash, invest your savings, fix the plumbing, and so forth. Now, if a nice man wants to help you with those things, and you want his help, by all means take it. You have nothing to prove; I just don't want you to count on a male human handling things for you that you are entirely capable of handling yourself. 
Remember that most fairy tales were written by men. Some of the greatest writers of children's fables were male: the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, even Walt Disney. You are not a tiny princess awaiting rescue by a valiant man, a symbol of frailty and naivete, or the punch line in a morality tale. The women in those stories were crafted by a different sex at a different time for a different audience; these days you slay the dragon yourself. 
You are more than a footnote in someone else's story. Don't be "the other woman." She's always a quick side note in the great saga of another couple's love. Cast yourself as the lead in your own life, please. 
Take yourself on dates.A delicious restaurant, a visit to a museum, a matinee -  you are your own best company. 
Being intelligent, beautiful, wealthy, talented, witty, or powerful is meaningless if you are not also kind. 
These and more in Prudent Advice.