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The Arcade Fire Haiti Lyrics

Last updated: 06/02/2014 08:30:08 PM

Haïti, mon pays,
wounded mother I'll never see.
Ma famille set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

Mes cousins jamais nés
hantent les nuits de Duvalier.
Rien n'arrete nos esprits.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we lie hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

Tous les morts-nés forment une armée,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haïti, never free,
n'aie pas peur de sonner l'alarme.
Tes enfants sont partis,
In those days their blood was still warm

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Wiki it | Reviewer: David | 3/18/14

The female singer(Régine Chassagne) is the daughter of parents who fled Haiti during the Duvalier regime. In the song she speaks of her unborn cousins haunting Duvalier. Her relatives were killed while he was in power. The ones massacred are known as the Jérémie Vespers, who were relative of the Jeune Haiti who tried to overthrow Duvalier.

funny | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/15/14

one could maybe substitute duvalier for dessalines,
although duvalier could kill anyone, whereas dessalines was
the dictator who dictated that genocide was the
way to go in the 1800's. Lest history be forgotten.

It was quizzical whether the woman singer in the
group was of french descent and actually mourning from the
french POV or the african one. The great majority of the
exterminated haiti french population was innocent in the 1804 event. I'm sure most of the victims of the papa doc regime were
only victims of circumstance as well.

Wrong time frame guys | Reviewer: Parker | 8/7/13

I just got back from a trip to Haiti. I also have studied the history of Haiti. I think you guys are going to far back. I think this song is about the current third world state of haiti. The soldiers being the UN, who are "protecting the peace" but really just pretending to direct traffic, while protecting the oil that is in Haiti. I don't see any references to the Duvalier regime, but thats just me.

Paradise Lost | Reviewer: Thizzle | 9/27/10

I feel this is about the bloody Duvalier reign of terror that began in the 1950s with Papa Doc and carried on into the 1980s with Baby Doc. The Duvaliers squandered aid money, murdered political opponents and sent their "tonton macoutes" (death squads) around to terrorize people in the poor neighbourhoods. This resulted in a massive brain drain, endemic poverty and solidified the pattern of cyclicle political violence that has plagued that country since its independence. So totally not about the earthquake.

Not about the earthquake - about the past devastation in Haiti | Reviewer: orindan | 9/22/10

Haiti is a song about the atrocities of the Tonton Macoutes, the paramilitaries who terrorized the Haitian people for decades when they were under the rule of the Duvaliers.
But it could have been written about dozens of other countries. That's what makes the lyrics so poignant - they are nearly universal. The Irish in the 1600's or the Jews in Russia in the 1700's (or the Cambodians in the 1970's or the Native Americans in the 1870's) could have all written this song.

DUH | Reviewer: mcr | 5/7/10

If you look up the biography of Régine Chassagne, the woman who wrote and sings this song, you would see that it's about the war that was going on in Haiti, which caused her and her family to flee to Canada. Songs don't predict the future.

Such a wonderful song | Reviewer: Cocaloupe | 4/17/10

As the meaning of the lyrics, as the music.... I love both of them.
Such a cry of the heart in my head.
Since I'm french it's the same matter: I understand a little part of the song, not the other one.
Arcade Fire is a fabulous band.

you're all idiots | Reviewer: that someone, somewhere with a big nose who knows | 3/31/10

no one can predict the future and if you knew anything, and i mean ANYTHING about haiti (and have a person with knowledge of french to hand...) you'd see this is about haiti's past. these lyrics are incredible

Not "predicting" future, but instead narrating the past | Reviewer: LOR | 1/21/10

If this song was "predicting the future" as someone below suggests, then it was also talking about the past. Haiti's earthquakes have not all just been natural, but also political. If you don't know anything about this, then you will stick to think that this song was "predicting the future" and not telling the story about its past and even recent years (the "prediction" hypothesis is very romantic, but unfortunately not true if you want to go on not reading a line about Haiti's history of exploitation).

The saddest thing is that once again, Haiti was struck by an earthquake and the political earthquakes before, made this one possible to even worsen the effects of the natural one. It seems that Haiti's present just looks as bad and even getting worse than its past.

This song was telling the future, plain and simple | Reviewer: Anonymous | 1/16/10

Well, if you translate the lyrics it is pretty obvious what it is saying and what has happened a few days ago. I for one see this as a sign that we should listen to more music for signs or clues for the future.

Possibly- | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/21/09

I've been listening to this song for years and singing my own lyrics inside my head. After learning the truth about it's haunting story- I feel it chimes with many of us because it is about retribution. Even after death- whether just or unjust, the truth will be reborn in some way within the next generation-
And I think we can all agree on this-
Native American/ Jewish/ African/ Haitian people alike

Correction | Reviewer: Nick | 7/9/09

The previous translation isn't right. Whilst I may have misunderstood the "Haiti dialect" (though I'm not sure there is much in there), it's pretty clear that some verbs have been mistranslated as nouns. In particular, "arrete" being translated as decree seems to have come straight out of an automoatic translator, whilst "hantent" is most certainly a verb.

This is a little more correct, though it doesn't change the overall meaning much:

Haiti, my country,
Wounded mother I’ll never see.
My family set me free.
Throw my ashes in to the sea

My unborn cousins
Haunt the nights of Duvalier
Nothing stops our spirits,
Guns can’t kill what soldiers can’t see.

In the forest we lie hiding,
Unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers’ angry yelling,
In the rivers we will go.

All the stillborns (or walking dead) form an army,
Soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
Bring about our second birth.

Haiti, never free,
Never fear to sound the alarm.
Your children have left,
In those days their blood was still warm.

Translation | Reviewer: Mr. T! | 4/2/09

No one has really been commenting on what the song is about. Perhaps this will help slightly, although there is plenty of English mixed into the song to get a general impression of what it might mean:

Haiti, my country,
wounded mother I'll never see.
My family set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

My cousins never bore
the haunted nights of Duvalier.
Nothing can our spirits decree.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we lie hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers' angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

All the dull ones form an army
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haiti, never free,
And not afraid to sound alarms.
Your children fled,
In those days their blood was still warm.

For more info on Duvalier:

I believe the song is a lament for her motherland at the same time it is a description of the atrocities committed by Duvalier. Regine is a refugee from Haiti and the song is not written in a formal French, but a Haitian dialect which makes the song all the more personal and powerful. The music doesn't alienate the listener, rather I feel it lures you in and as you begin to contemplate the lyrics you start to see the song as not so cheerful but more tearful.

I tried to keep the rhyme in place when translating, but it was impossible in two stanzas because in the French the ending words rhyme perfectly, but translated, it is mismatched.

interpret this song | Reviewer: Richard Rebelo | 3/12/09

I can’t get the song Haiti, by Arcade Fire out of my mind. I’ve been listening to it for a week over and over again. I haven’t understood most of the French, but somehow preferred not knowing, as my mind would fill in the story. I’ve been listening to this as a very happy song, feeling joy as I listen to the smooth voice and melody. I’ve finally looked up the lyrics and don’t feel like most of these reviews have talked about what this song “is about” at all. Mostly they just claim others don’t know what the song is about. I certainly don’t know what the song is about. But in it I hear hopefulness in ones future and a deep warm sense of love. I’ve listened to this song at least 30 times in the last weeks. Can anyone offer an interpretation of the songs meaning?

In Haiti Listening to this Song | Reviewer: ktaber | 6/29/08

As the title of my review suggests, I am actually sitting outside of a little market drinking a Prestige beer listening to this song over and over on my laptop while I'm sending emails home. I'm glad to say that violence in Haiti isn't so much a problem anymore so much as absolute poverty. We're working to feed malnourished children and I will have this haunting song in the back of my head every day as we reach out to them.