Carnival—kanaval—season in Haiti—which, according to experts usually takes place in February, but is taking place in early March this year—is a busy time for revelers and artists alike. Haitian music bands and performers release a song called a kavanal mereng weeks before the actual carnival, hoping to get fans hyped. And like the New Orleans Mardi-Gras, there are floats all over the streets, lots of costuming and partying, and most of all, the aforementioned kanaval songs.
The rapper TPO recalls the days when Haiti’s kanaval songs were as hard to find as a safety pin in a hay stack. PleziKanaval came, and such deprivation-filled days are…poof! The beauty of the website, asserts TPO, stems from the novelty of having all released kanaval songs in one spot, as opposed to having to scavenger hunt for them all over the web or wait impatiently (or perhaps in vain) for a local radio station to add it on its playlist. The site, the rapper says, is “a great opportunity” for artists who live abroad, as it decreases and practically eliminates the marketing legwork.
Left: Rapper TPO is eager to sing the praises of PleziKanaval and its app.
TPO professes to be an even bigger fan of the website’s downloadable app. “I do use it,” he says, “and it makes it easier to listen to the songs and keep up-to-date with everything on the website no matter where you are—in your car, outside your home, and so on.”
Gregory Jean-Baptiste, who is an avid user of both the website and app and is affiliated with a Haiti-based band called AJT, says he finds the PleziKanaval app interesting and useful. “It’s just another exposure given to them [the artists]. The more contact they have with the public, the better.” Jean-Baptiste believes that the website plays a significant role as well. “The updated infos keep the users on point and all the more eager to enjoy the carnival.”
Pedre contends that the concept for PleziKanaval came years ago, only it was called Kanaval.com. “Alain Paret, Fabrice Rouzier and I did [it] back in 2003,” Pedre reminisces. “I was the one providing the MP3 files at that time. The project stopped in 2004 because of the political situation at that time.”
Years later, Pedre realized he wanted to revive the idea, but wanted to do more than just upload MP3s. Indeed, the radio visionary wanted something on a more grandiose scale. He said he was finally able to put work into his vision in 2009. He put together a TV show and a website with Sebastien Barrau, an associate. Before the project could capture the momentum Pedre had hoped for, Haiti was hit by an earthquake in January 2010, practically immediately following the site’s official launch.
Above: Plezikanaval…the website!
In 2012, Pedre decided to relaunch the concept with a new name, PleziKanaval. As far as how the name for the website came about, Pedre says, it came naturally. “I wanted a name that could define what carnival in Haiti is [all] about. Kanaval se plezi [Carnival is loads of fun] as we know it, so PleziKanaval was the best name I could find.”
Pedre tapped a graphic and website designer who goes by the moniker Timoza, and PleziKanaval.com became a done deal.
With the relaunch came novel ideas. As one who clearly believes in the viability of technology, Pedre put an app into motion to supplement the website. Pedre says he first experimented with apps for his radio show “Chokarella” and was convinced that its success with users was indicative that PleziKanaval should also have that feature. “We did one last year,” Pedre recalls of the PleziKanaval app version 1.0, “but it was for Android only because Apple rejected it.” Our goal was to give people access to Haitian carnival everywhere 24/7. With the app—-for the first time—Haitian carnival is on every Smartphone.”
This is not an unsubstantiated boast.
The app is wildly popular, with hundreds of users hashtagging it and evangelizing its wonders on the daily via social networks. Thus far, the app has been downloaded 23,476 times and 64% of these downloads are Android users. The website itself has surpassed Pedre’s highest expectations. “We had 330,432 visitors,” beams Pedre. Alexa, the web metrics analytics firm, reveals that more than 50% of the website’s visitors are based in Haiti, with the USA coming at a close second, with nearly 41% of PleziKanaval’s visitors, accessing the site from there. Canada (still according to Alexa) ranks third on the list of top countries visiting PleziKanaval.
Plezikanaval user Gregory Jean-Baptiste says the site’s app is enhancing Haiti’s carnival experience.
Sheer word of mouth has worked in getting a trove of downloads. It also helps that Pedre has a huge platform. In addition to his own 35,000+ followers on Twitter, and his 10,000 adherents on Facebook (combined from two accounts), PleziKanaval has its own followers: 8,300 followers on Twitter, over 12,000 fans on Facebook, about 5,300 followers on the audio sharing site SoundCloud and more than 2400 Youtube subscribers. The website and the app are aggressively promoted on these social media networks, and get plugged on Pedre’s radio show. This strategy has proven to be more than effective. According to Alexa, 15% of the site’s referrals are from the social network Facebook. Other social networks like Twitter and Instagram aren’t left out of the equation. The ever savvy Pedre regularly posts videos of his TV show on the site, and publishes posts highlighting the latest released kanaval songs and music videos. The number of times each song is played is tracked directly on the website, giving kanaval music lovers the chance to see how their favorite songs measure up, and giving artists an inkling of how popular their releases are with fans.
For artists like TPO, the website functions as a great marketing tool. “It helps the artists a lot,” he contends, “because even if a radio station does not play [an artist’s kanaval] song, people can still look for it on Plezikanaval.com and listen to the kanaval song, and this can be done as many times as [they want to replay it].”
The PleziKanaval website ranks the songs on a daily and weekly basis, and there is nothing that artists value most than to be ranked on one of the coveted Top 10 spots. For those who are just getting initiated into PleziKanaval, there are tabs on the site’s navigation bar that feature archives of songs from the past two carnivals.
Carel Pedre during a segment of the TV show edition of PleziKanaval. The shows can be viewed on the PleziKanaval Youtube Channel.
The website also benefits those outside of Haiti, who may not be tech and app savvy. Logging on the PleziKanaval website, members of the Dyaspora can see behind-the-scene photos of the preparations being done for Haiti’s carnival, view raw footage of carnival happenings, in addition to listening to carnival songs and viewing music videos. Video postings of the broadcasts of the PleziKanaval TV show is probably the feature those of Haitian descent living outside of Haiti look forward to the most. In addition to furnishing footage of Haiti, the show offers a view of Haiti that is seldom seen by those who have never visited, or who aren’t frequent visitors—that of a Haiti that’s lively, pretty, and joyful. Indeed, courtesy of Carel Pedre and PleziKanaval, Haiti’s spread-out seeds can live Haiti’s carnival—as if they were there.
Be sure to download the PleziKanaval app on your Android phone by CLICKING HERE. Have an Android phone? Download the PleziKanaval app HERE.