PAPJAZZ Festival Defies Security Challenges, Returns to Haiti’s Capital in Spectacular Fashion

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Jan. 30, 2024: In a remarkable show of resilience, Haiti’s capital played host to the “PAPJAZZ” music festival this week, drawing hundreds of concertgoers back to the event for the first time since 2021. The festival, known for its international jazz acts, made a triumphant return, albeit with significant modifications and stringent security measures, all within the backdrop of the city’s dire security situation.

Festival organizer Milena Sandler speaks during the international jazz festival (Papjazz) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The 2022 edition of the festival had been postponed due to security concerns, leading to its relocation to the northern city of Cap-Haitien in the preceding year. Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, had been grappling with alarming levels of gang control, with reports suggesting that these criminal groups held sway over as much as 80 percent of the area, according to the United Nations.

Haitian musician Cisco performs during the international jazz festival (Papjazz) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Milena Sandler, one of the festival’s organizers, expressed the sentiment of defiance, stating, “This is the festival of resistance to everything that’s happening, our way of saying that we believe — and want to move forward.” She added optimistically, “The city is not dead despite everything.”

Haitian musician Erol Josué performs during the international jazz festival (Papjazz) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, had been embroiled in turmoil for years, with the rise of armed gangs contributing to widespread violence, economic turmoil, and a crumbling public health system. A recent report by the United Nations revealed a disheartening surge in homicides and kidnappings in the country.

In response to the ongoing security challenges, the 2024 PAPJAZZ festival was significantly scaled down, lasting for just four days instead of the usual eight. Concerts were held exclusively in a relatively secure residential neighborhood. Stages were set up outside the Karibe Hotel, a location that also houses UN offices. Security was ensured by a combination of volunteers and national police officers.

Haitian musician Jah Nesta performs during the international jazz festival (Papjazz) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite the challenging circumstances, the audience, primarily consisting of expatriates and middle-class Haitians, enthusiastically danced and sang each night. Local “Rara” carnival music filled the gaps between performances, adding a unique Haitian flavor to the event.

Esmeralda Milce, a spectator with a background in marketing, commented, “Despite the challenges, the festival bears witness to an impressive resilience. It’s a celebration of Haitian cultural richness.” Milce expressed her excitement about seeing Haitian artist Beethova Obas, whom she hadn’t seen perform in over a decade. “People are in a festive spirit,” she added.

The festival featured a diverse lineup of performers, including foreign artists like Cameroon-born American Richard Bona and Frenchman Ludovic Louis, as well as Haitian musicians from within the country and the diaspora.

According to the Haiti Jazz Foundation, which organized the event, PAPJAZZ saw between 550 and 850 guests attending each evening from Thursday to Saturday, Jan. 27th. Meanwhile, emerging musicians performed at free “after-show” concerts held in three restaurants in the Petion-Ville neighborhood, attracting significant crowds.

Notably, the free concerts that would typically take place in public squares and universities were excluded from this year’s festival, reflecting the organizers’ determination to navigate the challenging security environment while still celebrating the vibrant spirit of Haitian jazz and culture.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister and U.S. Secretary of State Address Regional Challenges

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. Jan. 30, 2024: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, on Monday engaged in discussions on diplomatic relations with United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, underscoring the significance of their partnership.

Antony Blinken expressed the United States’ recognition of Trinidad and Tobago as a vital partner, highlighting collaboration in areas such as energy security and climate resilience, aligning with the United States-Caribbean Partnership to address the climate crisis. Additionally, they joined forces to combat violent crime and firearm trafficking, prioritizing regional prosperity and opportunity.

Blinken acknowledged the importance of addressing regional challenges in countries like Venezuela and Haiti while emphasizing the strength of their bilateral ties. He commended the partnership’s growth over the past couple of years.

Prime Minister Rowley expressed his satisfaction with the meeting, emphasizing the importance of the relationship between Washington and the wider Caribbean. He recognized the United States as a major trading partner with a substantial Trinidad and Tobago diaspora.

The discussions encompassed various key issues, including energy, education, crime prevention, training, and technical assistance. National security and firearms trafficking were also focal points, with the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative playing a role. The talks briefly touched on Venezuela, energy security, cyber and digital policy, and Haiti’s ongoing instability.

Prime Minister Rowley also met with United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, to explore opportunities for expanding the bilateral economic partnership, including discussions on the Caribbean Basin Initiative and supply chain management.

The Trinidad and Tobago delegation included Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Dr. Amery Browne; Minister of Energy and Energy Industries and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young; Minister of Digital Transformation, Assel Bacchus; and Chief of Defence Staff of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, Air Vice-Marshal Darryl Daniel.

World’s Largest Cruise Ship Docks At Port Zante, St. Kitts On Maiden Voyage

News Americas, BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Tues. Jan. 30, 2024: The world’s largest cruise ship, “Icon of the Seas,” made its inaugural voyage and docked at Port Zante in St. Kitts today, with approximately 5,610 passengers on board.

Marsha Henderson, the Tourism Minister, emphasized the significant role of tourism, contributing over 40% to the country’s GDP, providing livelihoods for many.

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES – JANUARY 27: Onlookers gather at South Pointe Park to watch Royal Caribbean’s “Icon of the Seas”, the world’s largest cruise ship, as it sailed from Port Miami on its maiden cruise, in Miami Beach, Florida on January 27, 2024. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu via Getty Images)

She expressed satisfaction with the arrival of “Icon of the Seas” and praised industry partners and stakeholders for their execution. The ship belongs to the Oasis Class, the fourth or fifth of its kind to visit St. Kitts since 2011, demonstrating Royal Caribbean’s confidence in the destination.

Elison “Tommy” Thompson, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, celebrated the strong partnership with Royal Caribbean and the ship’s first call at St. Kitts, expressing pride in the ongoing collaboration.

Russel Benford, Vice President of Government Relations for the Americas and the Royal Caribbean Group, described the ship as a symbol of innovation, representing seven years of design and construction. The Icon of the Seas reflects 50 years of innovation in the cruise industry and features notable sustainability efforts, including a waste energy system and the use of LNG for cleaner, more sustainable operations.

The Icon of the Seas embarked on its first voyage from Miami and is set to visit two other countries before concluding its inaugural journey.

Guyanese-Born, Windies Bowler Joins Peshawar Zalmi For Pakistan Super League

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Jan. 30, 2024: Guyana-born, West Indies’ rising fast bowler, Shamar Joseph, has been signed by Peshawar Zalmi for the upcoming Pakistan Super League, (PSL), scheduled for later this month.

This move comes just two days after Joseph’s standout performance in the second Test match in Brisbane on January 27th, which helped the Windies men to victory.

Shamar Joseph of West Indies reacts after he was gifted a shift by Pat Cummins of Australia during day four of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and West Indies at The Gabba on January 28, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The 24-year-old, who recently made his debut in Adelaide, was initially brought in as a replacement for England fast bowler Gus Atkinson. Peshawar Zalmi had initially named Atkinson as a replacement for Afghan spinner Noor Ahmad. However, since Atkinson is currently on England’s tour of India, Joseph was chosen as the stand-in.

Peshawar Zalmi confirmed Joseph’s inclusion in their squad on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating, “Fans asked, we delivered. Welcome to the Zalmi family Shamar Joseph.”

Although Joseph was initially signed as a replacement, ESPNCricinfo reported that he is expected to stay with the team for the entire tournament, which runs from February 17 to March 24.

If this arrangement holds, it means that Joseph, who has limited experience with only seven first-class matches, will be available for only the last two rounds of the Cricket West Indies four-day championship, commencing on February 7.

Joseph will find familiar faces at Peshawar Zalmi, including West Indies’ white-ball head coach, Darren Sammy, who will serve as Zalmi’s head coach for the upcoming season. Additionally, Twenty20 captain Rovman Powell is expected to feature for the team.

Joseph made headlines with his performance during the West Indies’ two-Test tour of Australia. He secured a five-wicket haul on his debut in the Adelaide Test, despite the team losing by ten wickets. Joseph continued to impress by taking an astounding seven for 68 in the second Test, leading West Indies to an unexpected eight-run victory at the Gabba.

The under-strength West Indies had initially lost the opening game in Adelaide by 10 wickets but hit back strongly to win the second Test by eight runs in Brisbane, to force a 1-1 draw in the series.

The series result halted a worrisome run of nine consecutive series defeats, with the Brisbane victory marking West Indies’ first in Tests Down Under for 27 years.

Although Joseph has limited experience in T20 cricket, having played just two matches for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2023 Caribbean Premier League, his remarkable talent has earned him a spot in the Peshawar Zalmi squad for the PSL.

Joseph was born in Baracara, a small community in East Berbice-Corentyne, Guyana, about 225 km up the Canje River, and two days by boat from the port city of New Amsterdam. Joseph was named Man of the Match and Man of the Series for his shattering wicket-taking at the Gabba.

Cricket Windies

Dr. Kishore Shallow, President of Cricket West Indies, remarked “This victory is a testament to the indomitable spirit of West Indies cricket. It demonstrates our ability to rise above adversity and justly be among the world’s cricketing elite. “

President Shallow continued, “Captain Kraigg Brathwaite’s exemplary leadership has been instrumental in guiding our team through challenges and victories alike. His resilience, determination, and unwavering dedication to the cause have inspired this young team and every member of our cricketing fraternity.”

Sir Curtly’s Advice

Meanwhile, renowned former fast bowler Sir Curtly Ambrose has advised Joseph, to concentrate on the longer format of the game to refine his skills.

Following Joseph’s impressive performance in the second Test against Australia in Brisbane, Sir Curtly emphasized the importance of establishing a strong foundation in red-ball cricket before venturing into shorter formats.

Speaking on the matter, Sir Curtly stated, “I believe that he loves cricket in general and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Test, ODI, or T20 cricket. I believe he is just passionate  about cricket.”

He continued, “But for me, I would love to see him continue playing red-ball cricket for a while so that he can develop his skills. Because we know sometimes as a young player as you gain success you are wanted in the T20 franchise cricket around the world.”