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Haiti: One Musician's Response

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It's easy to be cynical about celebrities and their charity work, but there's no doubting Wyclef Jean's commitment to Haiti. The (former?) Fugees member may have moved to the States as a kid, but he's never forgotten about the land of his birth, stressing his heritage in lyrics, making entire albums about Haiti and doing so much to bring the country's plight to international prominence he was made an ambassador by the President, Rene Preval.

His Yele Foundation - its name taken from a song on his brilliant solo debut, Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival - is at the forefront of the immediate and urgent response to the catastrophic earthquake, its US text-based donation system has spread virally over the internet, and today they've announced an alliance with a number of other charities on the ground to co-ordinate relief efforts and help channel aid quickly and efficiently. They've wasted no time at all, with four airlifts bringing aid, supplies and doctors to the country tomorrow. Clicking on the banner above will take you to the credit card donation page; clicking HERE will take you to the postal address of the Yele Foundation if you'd prefer to send a cheque.   

Wyclef seems to be a love-him-or-hate-him musician, but I've always been in the former camp. The records have been consistently great, and the gigs frequently astonishing - one night at the Empire in Shepherd's Bush will live particularly long in the memory. On the several occasions I've interviewed him I've always found him to be witty, sharp, smart and - best of all - an outrageous gossip. He also remembers you, which is very rare: and led to him inviting me in to a London studio late one night in 2002 where he and (fellow Haitian) Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis were working with Tom Jones (the resulting article is available to read at rocksbackpages.com - subscription required). Watching as the Welshman worked through the ad-libs and backing vocals for his version of the Leadbelly song Black Betty, I was struck both by Jones' humility, in his readiness to take critiques and direction, and by Clef's instinctive musicality and his exceptional ear for detail. They worked fast, but they got the job done professionally. I'm sure that Yele and their confederate charities will operate just the same way in Haiti. 





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