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What happened to the band Piti Piti, who composed songs for children in the 1980s and 1990s?


With titles like “Peyi mwen” and “Kenbe la”, the popularity of the Piti Piti choir, created in 1987, has spread beyond the borders of Haiti

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Nearly twenty years after the dissolution of the group, Pierre Rigaud Chéry, musician-composer and founding member of the musical group, would like to bring the project back, though he still has a few reservations.

With titles like “Peyi mwen” and “Kenbe la,” the popularity of the Piti Piti children’s choir, created in 1987, has spread beyond the borders of Haiti. Through its songs broadcast on radio and television, the group addressed themes tied to culture, the history of the country as well as human values.

Despite the efforts of the main initiators to keep it alive, Piti Piti stopped producing in 2004, in the aftermath of the unrest that followed the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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“For years, I have regularly met people who ask me to bring back Piti Piti,” confides the 68-year-old musician to AyiboPost.

The lack of cultural and artistic programs designed for children, intended for their socio-cultural training and development, particularly on radio and television, concerns the musician with a career spanning forty years.

If he claims to be very motivated to relaunch Piti Piti, Chéry also specifies that it will first be in the form of a show on social networks. A way for him to introduce the group to new generations, but also to reconnect with former members of the musical group.

For years, I have regularly met people who ask me to bring Piti Piti back

“Currently, I am in the process of updating my repertoire,” says the musician who added that he has in his repertoire around a hundred educational songs, exclusively written for children.

However, he continues, “I am following the evolution of the security situation in the country very closely.”

Created in collaboration with musician Yves Lavaud, engineer Raymond Desmangles and Jose Jean Raymond who played the role of manager, Piti Piti quickly captured the public’s attention.

Across the country, people were showing their appreciation for the young musical outfit.

“I still have good memories of Piti Piti’s songs,” Genson César, a fan and enthusiast of the group’s songs, tells AyiboPost. “They rocked my childhood in the 90s. Every day, I watched the Piti Piti music videos on Haitian national television,” he continues.

“Today, it is with a lot of nostalgia that I evoke these childhood memories,” explains the man who is now 37 years old.

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Gaël Jean, musician and student at the State University of Haiti, talks about getting to know Piti Piti thanks to a friend who showed him a clip of the group’s video via TikTok, a year ago.

“Seeing children singing so well about the beauty of the country immediately intrigued me,” the 22-year-old told AyiboPost.

“The texts, the music, the themes covered are original. It was an extraordinary discovery,” explains Jean, who says he never stopped watching other videos of the group available on YouTube.

Around twenty children aged ten to twelve made up Piti Piti.

The latter came from various educational establishments in Port-au-Prince: the Collège Saint-Louis de Bourdon (Mère de Bourdon), the Kay Annou school, Peter Pan as well as the Mary Carline Kindergarten in Bois-Verna.

According to Pierre Rigaud Chéry, the group was born from a desire to fill a void.

One day, while attending a rehearsal session of a group of children led by musician Yves Lavaud at the Promusica Academy in Port-au-Prince, he discovered that the songs performed by the children were all foreign songs.

“It shocked me,” says the musician.

So, he went to see Yves Lavaud to suggest that he write songs in Creole that reflect Haitian culture, intended exclusively for children, sung by children.

A proposal to which Yves Lavaud responded favorably.

Putting this band together was an “incredible accomplishment” at the time. “I wanted to leave something to the country, to the children,” says the man who set texts by Syto Cavé, Frankétienne and Georges Castera to music.

In 1988, Piti Piti entered the Haitian music scene during a singing competition organized by American Airlines.

To participate in this competition, “Peyi mwen,” one of the group’s flagship titles, was created.

The song was popular at the time. In schools and on the radio. “We were sure of winning,” he recalls.

However, ironically, the group was disqualified for “unclear” reasons.

The dream of winning this singing competition is gone. However, this brief passage propelled Piti Piti a little further into the Haitian musical world. The following year, the group released its first and only cassette entitled Ochan Piti Piti, composed of eight tracks, including: Peyi mwen, Kenbe la, Sesa Sesa, Ti zwezo and Lavi lavi.

“Through these songs, I wanted to instill in children human values as well as the essence of Haitian culture, in their mother tongue,” says Chéry.

Sold on consignment at the music box at Raoul Denis located in Port-au-Prince, on Rue Pavée, more than 4,000 cassettes were sold “in record time.”

“It was an achievement. People were excited at the idea of getting our cassette which sold for 75 gourdes,” recalls the musician.

With Piti Piti, Pierre Rigaud Chéry and his team wanted to continue producing songs that remind Haitian children of the history of Haiti and instill in them a love of the homeland.

Through its concerts, notably at the Saint-Louis de Gonzague institution in Port-au-Prince, more and more people are getting to know the group.

However, in 2004, the dream turned into a nightmare.

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Despite their desire to keep Piti Piti alive, troubling political events at the time caused them to stop all activities.

A big blow for the public at the time.

“The children, now teenagers, were disappointed. But we had to,” explains Pierre Rigaud Chéry, who confides that he did not receive any help at the time to keep the initiative alive beyond the socio-political uncertainties caused by the fall of President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

In a report published in November 2004, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a deterioration of security in the country, this report also mentioned the rise in power of 34 gangs which terrorize the population causing abuse, murder and kidnapping.

In 2005, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) counted 1,031 people killed between March 2004 and June 2005 in Haiti.

So, in the face of street violence, the leaders are increasingly unable to ensure the safety of their members, especially when they had to attend rehearsal sessions in Bourdon, at Rivière Street.

Since then, the maestro has lost all contact with the young singers who made up Piti Piti.

Efforts made by AyiboPost to get in touch with other members of the group have been unsuccessful.

Nearly twenty years later, many things have changed. Among the four initiators of the group in 1987, only two are still alive today, Yves Lavaud and Pierre Rigaud Chéry.

In 2023, of the two, only the latter continued to write songs for children.

At present, the security situation in the country is quite worrying. Nearly 80% of the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince is controlled by armed gangs.

“That’s why I want to start by getting started on social media. In addition, the opportunities brought by new technologies are enormous,” explains the guitarist, “The future will tell the rest,” he concludes to AyiboPost.

Along with his wife, Chantal Drice, who is also a singer better known as Kreyololo, the native of Les Cayes who has headed the National Music Institute of Haiti for some time continues to participate in musical and cultural initiatives across the country.

As a result, faced with street violence, those in charge found themselves less and less capable of ensuring the safety of their members, particularly when they had to go to rehearsal sessions at Bourdon, on rue Rivière.

Since then, the maestro has lost all contact with the young singers who made up Piti Piti.

Searches undertaken by AyiboPost to contact other members of the group were unsuccessful.

Nearly twenty years later, a lot has changed. Among the four initiators of the group in 1987, only two are still alive today, Yves Lavaud and Pierre Rigaud Chéry.

By Wethzer Piercin

Image de couverture : Collage of the Piti Piti group

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Wethzer Piercin est passionné de journalisme et d'écriture. Il aime tout ce qui est communication numérique. Amoureux de la radio et photographe, il aime explorer les subtilités du monde qui l'entoure.


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