In the late 1970s Boukman Eksperyans
(pictured) assembled on the sidewalks of Ouanamnithe, a small town in northern Haiti. The group took their name from Boukman Dutty, a slave and voodoo priest who helped to unify the slaves against the French colonists in 1791, and their music echoes his mission with a blend of spiritual and political messages. Boukman Eksperyan's mix of rock, reggae and Caribbean sounds first won them attention in Haiti when they kept winning the "best song" category at Carnival. In 1992, following an army coup against the Aristide government, their Carnival entry was banned by the military authorities as "too violent," but Boukman continued on undeterred and since has acquired international fame for their transfixing fusion of Haitian music and dance. They play Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. at Reynolds Theater, as part of Duke's Living Traditions series. Tickets are $21, $17 and $10; call 684-4444.