As is the case for math and for love, and given that it is a form of math and of love, music is a universal language, an applied philosophy. Music remains a bridge for inter- and intra- cultural communications, relations, and collaborations. Historically and presently, many people work with the music and activities of Vodou in order to advance the social good: to heal (body, mind, spirit, and community); to protect; to transmit knowledge as well as to connect and interact with spirits for further learning and evolution of our consciousness.
The role of music in engaging with spirits in ritual contexts cannot be overstated; in Vodou this is particularly notable and has been of interest to practitioners and academics for decades. Even those with gross and hurtful misconceptions about Vodou have also been exposed to its music, whether they know it or not. While, as a family practice, rituals are often conducted with songs or without any music, the vibrant Creole culture of New Orleans began with music of the Vodou tradition aka Voodoo music; Creole musicians made significant contribution to the evolution of jazz. Perhaps the most comprehensive publication was compiled by the late Max Beauvoir over 32 years during which he visited peristiles across Haiti. (Together with Piero BoisAubin and colleagues, Beauvoir’s stewardship work continues with Lakou Papiyon’s efforts and works as guardians, preserving and revitalizing this vast, rich, and sophicated repertoire for future generations.)
Emeritus Professor Joseph Moreno of Maryville University articulates this as follows: “shamanic music associated with certain spirits can direct the content of the shaman’s ‘imagery’ to those entities.” Through drumming, instrumentation, singing, and movement, the music of Vodou works profoundly with energies; at its foundation are various philosophical principles involving (poly)rhythm, vibration, pulse, cyclicality, call-and-response sampling and remixing, and synchronization/resonance entrainment. Energies influence everything around us and there exists extraordinary healing power in the mind, body and spirit through working with positive energy.
Through music, Vodou could become more accessible outside of Haiti and more palatable within Haiti, supporting reintegration and restoration of dignity and national identity, and honoring those who maintain the traditions.