Music Helps Lift Haitians' Spirits

For more than a week, there have been stories about Haitians struggling to cope with the destruction of their country. But even amid the rubble, there are moments of reprieve. In this audio postcard, we hear how some women and children formed a circle and chanted praise for Joshua's victory in Jericho.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So that's one major story we're following this morning; another, of course, is the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. And we're going to hear some of the sounds of that aftermath next. Even in the midst of the rubble, there are moments of reprieve, and NPR's Carrie Kahn sent us an audio postcard.

CARRIE KAHN: For those who survived the earthquake, daily life in the Haitian capital is consumed with enduring hunger, thirst and pain.

(Soundbite of singing)

KAHN: But there are breaks in the collective trauma - moments that can even bring a crowd to its feet and fill a dusty homeless encampment with song.

(Soundbite of singing)

KAHN: Women and children form a circle, chanting praise for Joshua's victory in Jericho. They call out for the walls to come down - a sadly ironic song in a city in ruin. Still, for them, it brings joy.

(Soundbite of singing)

KAHN: More people join in, the circle swells, and the beat becomes more frantic. Soon, everyone raises their hands to the sky, then points to the ground.

(Soundbite of singing and chanting)

KAHN: They sing long live God, death to Satan. This impromptu religious revival lasts for nearly an hour, tiring bodies yet freeing minds from the stress of daily survival.

That stress can be all-consuming during the pushing, yelling and shoving necessary to reach the front of the line. Yet even during the jostling behind the water tanker, there are moments of ecstatic relief.

(Soundbite of squealing)

KAHN: This woman lets out a squeal as she finally fills her large bucket with cool water.

(Soundbite of squealing)

KAHN: It was the first she had received in five days.

Not all cathartic moments are public. I saw one elderly woman nearly hidden by the leaves of the low-hanging tree. She said her simple song helped calm her tired nerves.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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