Gerdes Fleurant

Associate Professor Emeritus of Music


Ethnomusicologist focusing on the folk, ritual, and traditional musics of Africa and the Americas, with specialization on the culture and rhythms of the Rada Rite of Haitian Vodou.

I teach courses on the musics of Africa, Afro-America, and the Caribbean (Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti), as well as the introductory course world music. And, I teach the course on Fieldwork and Research Methods in Ethnomusicology.

My research is grounded in my commitment to Applied Ethnomusicology, an approach that emphasizes tangible benefits for the people we study as well as the researcher. This explains why in concert with Florienne, my spouse and partner, we were able to build the Léocardie & Alexandre Kenscoff Cultural Center (C-CLAK) and the Gawou Ginou School (GGS) in Mirebalais, a pivotal town in Haiti’s Central Plateau. The Center welcomes exchanged students and colleagues interested in the culture, traditional music and dance of Haiti. In this vein, we were able to offer twice the Wellesley Winter Session course on, “Music, Dance, and Culture of Haiti” on location, where our students are exposed to authentic Haitian musicians. We also welcome at the C-CLAK regularly the Wellesley’s “Yanvalou Drum and Dance Ensemble”, the performing ensemble I co-founded with Ms Kera Washington, then a student, in 1990.

The C-CLAK, a community center, offers space for the local people to celebrate their culture and hold various activities such as First Communions, Weddings, Funerals, and other functions.

The GGS, a K-6 Elementary School teaches the regular curriculum with significant emphasis on the culture and language (Kreyòl) of the children who are exposed to traditional dances such as “Yanvalou”, “Tréssé Ruban”, and the “Kongo”, as well as the basics of concert band music. The Kongo music of Haiti, may it be said, influenced the foundation and evolution of modern jazz in the US.

My research on the Rada Rite of Haitian Vodou, presented in my book Dancing Spirits: Rituals and Rhythms of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite, is considered as a landmark, served as a basis for the work of several emerging scholars to whit (a Master’s Thesis from Harvard). As a founding member of the Haitian Studies Association (HSA) and The Congress of Santa Barbara (KOSANBA), the Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou, I participated actively in the socio-political life of Haiti, and served as a consultant to the Ministry of Culture, developing “Le Plan National de la Culture”. I also served as the first “Recteur” of the University of the Central Plateau (UPC) in a valiant effort to develop a public higher education network outside of Port-au-Prince, the capital city.

I also contributed the explicatory notes on the drums at the “Vodou Exhibit of the British Museum” (2018). In the past five years, I have been serving as the Haiti’s representative at the International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance (ICTMD) and filed several reports about the popular music scene and emerging musicians in Haiti. In addition, I reviewed the works of colleagues on Vodou drums and culture in Haiti. I presented recently (2023) a paper, “Les origines africaines de la musique populaire en Ayiti”, at the “Colloque, organisé par l’Université Quisqueya sur la musique populaire en Haiti celébrant le 60 ème Anniversaire de Tropicana-Haiti”, one of the leading “kompa music” ensembles of the country.

Finally, I continue to appear frequently at Haitian Radio/TV programs, both in Haiti and in the Diaspora, about the culture and the music.