International jazz festival changing the way the world views Haiti

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Among the hustle and bustle of the busy Port-au-Prince streets the sounds of smooth jazz can be heard high up on the mountain.

Now in it’s 13th year, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival has become one of the largest music festivals in the Caribbean.

Now in it's 13th year, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival has become one of the largest music festivals in the Caribbean.

More than 20,000 people gather in Haiti’s capital city to hear musicians from across the globe.

“People from all over the world, not just Haitians, but people from Sweden, people from Switzerland, people from Israel. These are just people, I’m naming that are in this festival that have just come here,” said singer, song-writer Phyllisia Ross.

This year’s line-up includes British soul songstress Joss Stone and Grammy award-winning, jazz vocalist, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

“I don’t think it’s a music for the elite. It’s a music for everyone and the challenge is how do we bring it to everyone,” said Salvant.

That’s what PAPJazz is doing. The week long jazz festival includes several free concerts. Performers also host workshops, giving advice and mentoring Haiti’s young musicians, at no cost.

“I was playing Jazz when I was young, I didn’t have the chance to see the artist, talk to them, to ask them a question. Now, not only can you go on YouTube to check it out, but you can see him, he comes here, you ask a question and see how he does it. I think that makes a big difference,” said Joel Widmaier, founder of PAPJazz.

Now in it's 13th year, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival has become one of the largest music festivals in the Caribbean.

Haitian-American singer, song-writer Phyllisia Ross said PAPJazz not only displays Haiti’s thriving jazz scene, but it opens the world to a side of Haiti not often shown.

“I think that it’s really important for people to see that Haitian means a lot of things. Haiti means a lot of things,” Ross continued. 

The festival will benefit the Haiti Jazz Foundation. The non-profit was founded by legendary singer and percussionist Joel Widmaier.

“I love jazz, I was born in jazz and I love music. I said why not do one in Haiti,” Widmaier explained. 

For the first time this year PAPJazz is going green, allowing guests to adopt a tree.  It’s all in an effort to boost the islands tourism industry, while highlighting the country’s rich culture.

“It’s such an untapped, undiscovered, unrealized, gorgeous land,” Ross said. “There’s like something pulsing in the earth here you know, especially like we said, it is the first free black republic in the world. There’s historical richness,” she added. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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