Performers Bring Passion for Music and Social Justice to PMC’s “Zoukoutap”
SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT – In order for Population Media Center’s (PMC) entertainment-education programming to be effective, the entertainment component must come first—our serial dramas can’t educate listeners if they aren’t compelled to tune in again and again, week after week. For us and our in-country teams, that means top-notch production values in every aspect, from scintillating scripts, to true-to-life actor portrayals, to skilled technicians and quality recordings, to talented musicians and unforgettable theme music.
When Zoukoutap 2, the sequel to PMC’s Zoukoutap (“To Limp”), launched in May in Haiti on over 40 radio stations, the Creole language serial drama reprised the opening theme music familiar to over 400,000 listeners of its first season, with some exciting new voices and melodic adaptations. The Zoukoutap 2 opening theme is a burst of life, vibrant and celebratory yet also impassioned, with a hint of melancholy. Blended rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean, smooth synthesized harmonies worthy of a Billy Joel single, and the mellifluous lilt of Haitian Creole combine in a delicious musical gumbo. The bold, declamatory production features just a handful of talented singers and instrumentalists but creates the welcome illusion of a wild block party, dozens of musicians at play together.
We were excited to learn that two of these talented musicians have not just powerful voices, but a powerful passion for the social issues Zoukoutap addresses. Edriss Neptune is both an entertainer and a staff member of the Restavek Freedom Foundation, a funder and partner of the Zoukoutap program which works to end child slavery in Haiti through cultural and policy advocacy work. Samantha Normil lends her voice to the show both musically and as an actor, playing the part of Tilala, a returning character from season 1.
Since childhood, music has played an important role in both performers’ lives. “Music has been a hobby and profession in parallel to all my other professional or personal activities,” Edriss told PMC. “I see music like a central point which every part of my life turns around.”
“I live through music,” said Samantha.
When they were invited to perform the Zoukoutap 2 jingle, both were thrilled to be part of such a widely known program with an important social message.
“I believe Zoukoutap helps people more than you ever know,” Samantha told us. In season 1 of the program, Samantha’s character, Tilala, a hardworking mother of three who is plagued by anemia and malnutrition, endures a miscarriage and a neonatal death in her husband’s pursuit of fathering a male child. Listeners follow her heartrending story and absorb important lessons about family planning, reproductive health, and domestic abuse. “Through this character, I realized the correlation between sexual education and gender violence,” Samantha continued.
For Edriss, it’s the 300,000+ restaveks—Haitian children living in a system of domestic slavery—that inspire him both as a performer and in his professional role with the Restavek Freedom Foundation. A well-known artist in the Jacmel commune of Haiti, Edriss defines himself as a dedicated activist for the freedom of children in domesticity. “Children living as restavek are often victims of sexual abuse, and their lack of sexual education often leads them to become pregnant at a young age,” said Edriss. “Family planning could be a solution for reducing the number of children living in inhuman conditions.”
The performers described their experience working together in the studio. The collaboration with a new team of people was initially stressful, said Edriss, “But friendly vibes did not take long to come. I had a perfect and rewarding collaboration with Samantha, with whom I spent most of the time in the recording booth.”
“Thanks to the amicable ambiance of the studio, we were able to focus, which helped with the recording process,” reported Samantha. Edriss added, “At times when there were other people in the studio—some Zoukoutap actors—they always took the time to tell us how much they appreciated our work.”
When asked about the future of Zoukoutap, Edriss and Samantha both have high hopes for the program. “I wish Zoukoutap will keep on going to help transform the nation and to join everyone through a new vision,” said Edriss.
Samantha is a big supporter of the program’s methodology, which is hinted at slightly in the music’s lyrics: Right, left, good, bad… We are looking for the right way and we might find it. By following the characters’ experiences as they face positive and negative influences and situations, listeners learn about the consequences of their choices in a way that’s not preachy or condescending. “I believe in the changes of mindset this project brings and I hope it keeps on going,” Samantha stated. “Also, I hope other critical themes will be developed in the future seasons.”
Zoukoutap is produced by Bloom S.A. Communication & Production, Population Media Center, and Restavek Freedom Foundation, and airs on over 40 Haitian radio stations through June 2016, as well as at www.soundcloud.com/zoukoutapofficiel. The theme music was written and produced by Christina Guérin, Yohann Dore, and Caleb Francois. You can hear it for yourself, as well as snippets from several other PMC programs, by visiting PMC’s YouTube page, www.youtube.com/user/PopulationMediaCtr, and our website, www.populationmedia.org.
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org