Dancing to the Beat of Our Own Drum (International Song and Dance Day)

“The beat of the drum resonates from the soul of the Haitian people and is expressed through movement. Haitian dance has its roots in Africa and tells stories of important life events, invokes spirits, and promotes fellowship among those in earshot of the sounds.”

Music is a unifying force across each culture and country around the world. This is no different in the diverse and vibrant country of Haiti!


The Kompa is a popular form of song and dance in Haiti, which originated, in part, from Spanish Meringue. “Kompa adopted its moniker from the Spanish word “compás,” which means “rhythm” or “measure,” as in a musical measure or bar.” This form of dance takes influences from jazz, with big band brass instruments accompanying Haitian rhythms of drums or bongos. The particular variety of music originated with Jean-Baptiste and his band during the 1950s. Since that time, it has become almost synonymous with Haitian music.

TJS students perform at the annual culture day

Music in the Classroom

The Joseph School is built on six fundamental pillars of education, one of which is celebrating Haitian culture and history through its curriculum. It would be a disservice to the students to exclude the rich tradition of music from their schooling, which is why a foot-tapping tune can frequently be heard across The Joseph School campus. 

Music has long been associated with increased retention for lessons in school. TJS builds on this and specifically incorporates music into its learning modules. This method has been so successful, even our professional development partners at P4H have incorporated music into their teachings. Music was a strong part of the lessons P4H taught during our three-year partnership with its organization.

TJS Teachers join in song during a P4H training lesson 

Music at TJS

Aside from the benefits music has on learning, it’s also a whole lot of fun! The Joseph School holds a play day each year, which is similar to an American school’s field day. The students participate in outdoor games such as sack races, tag, and, at TJS, dancing! Each classroom (roughly 15 – 18 students) composes a dance routine and performs in a competition on play day. The teachers of each grade plan most of the choreography, but in the older grades some of the students collaborate to create a joint routine. After each grade performs, the entire student body votes on which performance was the best.

TJS students perform at the holiday party

Similarly, each grade performs a song or dance at the annual Christmas party. It is common for American schools to have a sing-a-long performance for the students around the holiday season, but at The Joseph School a specific emphasis on dance is also included in the program.

We hope you enjoyed this small glimpse at some of the incredible traditions of Haitian culture celebrated at The Joseph School!