Electronic Dance Music Tied to Vodou

By Katherine Kory

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Thump thump thump goes our hearts, staying in a steady rhythm and always beating. In the same way drums have a beat and a pattern that does not typically change tempo. It can be calming or cause a person to fall into a trance. In electronic dance music the drums play a role in causing a person to move in a specific way, sometimes even inspired by African drum rhythms. In Vodou drums are used as the beat for dances to draw in the spirits or even possession, which is similar to a trance but the person is inhabited by a spirit that talks to the people around it. The possessed person will recall nothing of the possession once it is complete. In order for these possessions to happen people move about typically on top of a veve that is drawn with cornmeal, or a similar material, which is ruined over time. Wiped away and never drawn exactly the same. The design on the bottle reminds the viewer that our modern societies are still deeply rooted in African traditions brought over in the slave trade.

The bottle also plays with idea that there light in the dark, or a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s common to hear, especially when the economy isn’t as great, that things will get better. I have been told on countless occasions that, “you just have to keep going and trying. You will never succeed if you give up.” This has been the case with my career in the music industry as I aspire to be like all the artists listed on the bottle but seem to have not gotten a break until the past week when I was offered my first release on a music label. Still the pressure doesn’t go away… Now I have to show that it was not a fluke. Am I getting any closer to the light, because it does not appear that I am. How will I know though? It could be a mirage.

In the same way the colors used are similar to glow sticks or festival lights. This could even be associated with a night owl, a person that stays up late into the night, or a party person. In general people who stay up at night are going against their internal clock that tells them they need to sleep when it is dark out. Night time in many cultures can be associated with the dead or hell. My bottle could be playing with all these ideas at the same time. Finally, I find that something magical happens at night at parties and festivals that cannot be described. It comes in that moment when the stage is completely dark and all you see is a sea of phone or camera lights that look like the night sky. This image may play with the idea of mirrors, reflection, and the past. No matter the interpretation Vodou bottles are special and a travay maji, or “magic work” in Haitian terms.

The bottle project helped us to understand the use of bottles in Haitian Vodou culture. Reading into a bottle is serious business. The bottles are not meant to be seen by the public, but instead hidden away somewhere. There are always many layers of meaning, symbolism, and connotations attached with each bottle, and no bottle is complete without these layers. Also, no bottle is the same as they are each uniquely made using recycled materials found in dumps, bought secondhand, or given to them. This is partially due to the fact that Haitians are typically living in poverty, our junk can end up there, and what is old to us is new to them. As a result there is artistry and freedom in this artistry attached to each bottle. They are more often found at Vodou alters as they are vessels for the many spirits to come to this world in. Also, in some cases they are filled with items, perfumes, or other liquids which the bottle did not originally contain. Finally some bottles are covered, possibly hiding the contents on the inside so if it is filled you may never find out what is in there (as some bottles even have the caps and neck of the bottle covered so that you can’t open it). In the end, the bottle project opened my eyes to the beauty and complexity of Vodou and all the layers involved.

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