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What makes two of tonight’s local Haiti benefits unique? They both feature Haitian bands. Konpa combo Rafrechi is hosting a charity event at Kahler Hall in Columbia, Md., with donations going to the Caribbean American Network, while the New York City-based outfit Tabou Combo will be at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, where people can contribute money to the Red Cross.
Rafrechi’s manager, Woolley Antoine, told me that for the Columbia event, the group will perform an acoustic set rather than its normal electric one. The function will include a guest speaker to talk about the situation in Haiti since last week’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake, as well as an open mic for anyone else who wants to perform. He noted that the group has lost on the island “countless friends and fans. We still haven’t heard from some people yet. We are praying to God that they are OK in Haiti.” Antoine said the beneficiary of the event, the Caribbean American Network, “have been around for nine years. They are very legit and dependable. They already have people in Haiti working day and night reaching out to the countryside. They are helping in locations where the big organizations have yet to reach.” Rafrechi itself had pre-earthquake plans to go to Haiti that are now on hold. “The last time we went to Haiti was in 2006 and the whole Rafrechi crew went,” Antoine said. “We had so much fun. We were in the middle of our preparation to go toHaiti for carnivale—-that was supposed to take place on Feb. 14, 15, 16—-and for a summer tour 2010.”
The Kennedy Center, in partnership with the Embassy of Haiti, is presenting a free musical benefit for relief efforts in Haiti with konpa stars Tabou Combo, members of the National Symphony Orchestra, Haitian singers Tatiana Pierre and John Pierremont, and the Let Freedom Ring Choir. At the performance, patrons can deposit donations to the “Haiti Relief and Development Fund” of the American Red Cross in designated receptacles. The pioneering Haitian dance band Tabou Combo should provide the most excitement and emotion on the bill. The group has been mixing funk, African, Cuban, and uniquely Haitian Creole sounds since 1968. Through plenty of touring, they are beloved throughout the French-speaking world. While their keyboards and vocals make the band sound loungelike on the occasional ballad, most of the time the group generates striking Caribbean polyrhythms.
Tabou Combo, members of the NSO, Tatiana Pierre & John Pierremont, and the Let Freedom Ring Choir on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Tabou Combo are scheduled to play from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.) at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free. (202) 467-4600
Rafrechi and guests Friday January 22 at 8 p.m. at Kahler Hall, 5440 Old Tucker Rd., Columbia, Md. (410) 852-3886. Donation required.