Feb 11, 2020

Valentine’s Day and the Romantic History of Konpa

Valentine’s Day, the holiday traditionally associated with romance and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, is just a few days away. Before you lose yourself in the endless cascades of pink hearts and red roses, let’s take a moment to learn a little more about it.


Did you know this lovely holiday has a history beyond candy hearts and chocolate? From ancient festivals to modern dances, Saint Valentine’s day gives us an unexpected look into the past.


The true identity of the titular Saint Valentine, like most ancient history, is more than a little unclear. One popular story states that he was a Roman priest who secretly performed weddings in defiance of the emperor Claudius and was sentenced to death for his actions. He was later martyred and given a day to celebrate his life and the risk he took for love. How romantic!


Or maybe its origins are even older than that.


Another theory postulates that our Valentine’s Day has its roots in an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia. This spring celebration, which took place on February 15th, was said to be connected to love and fertility. It was seemingly replaced by St. Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate multiple saints named Valentine, in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius I.


Whatever its true origins may be, this romantic holiday has endured and has continued to be celebrated by lovers around the world for centuries.


While our modern version of Valentine’s Day is a quite a bit different than the ritualistic celebrations of yore, we still pay tribute to the concept of love and observe some truly heartfelt traditions.


In Haiti, for example, schoolchildren exchange valentine letters with one another and enjoy heart-shaped sweets during their annual classroom valentine party. Adult couples exchange gifts of chocolate and might spend the night enjoying a romantic stroll or they might head out to a bal, (in their best pink or red outfits) to get close and dance to compas.

Compasspelled phonetically as konpa, is a Haitian music and dance in the méringue style. Short for compas direct in French, or direct beat, this energetic dance music is known for its distinctive, rhythmic drum beat. Unlike Valentine’s Day’s murky past, the origins of this amorous dance are quite clear.
It gained near instant popularity in 1955, when a Haitian saxophonist by the name of Nemours Jean-Baptiste performed his new”Ensemble Aux Calebasses” with his band Conjunto International. This big brass focused version of Haitian méringue was accompanied by a romantic, two-step ballroom dance-style known as kare (square)Danced in pairs like all ballroom dances, konpa dancing is fluid and rhythmic with most of the movement centered on the hips.


Konpa is still popular worldwide and has influenced multiple styles of méringue such as coladeira in Cape Verde, soca in the Caribbean and kizomba in Angola. It’s still frequently performed and enjoyed, especially on romantic occasions like Valentine’s Day.


So whether you’re strolling close to home with your beau or going out on the town together this Valentine’s Day, perhaps take a cue from the history makers in this article and make it a day to remember.


Looking for the perfect romantic ballad this Valentine’s Day? Watch the video of my favorite konpa song Lajan Sere by Klass. Then warm up with a few romantic words and phrases in Haitian Creole.

Words related to love, romance  and affection




renmen to love
damou to be in love
tonbe damou to fall in love
sere nan bra



kwoke to cuddle
sen valanten St. Valentine’s day
flè flowers
chokola chocolate


bijou jewelry
pafen perfume
fiyansay engagement
bag fiyansay engagement ring
alyans wedding ring
nòs wedding
maryaj marriage
lindemyèl honeymoon
mari husband
madanm wife
fiyanse fiancé


mennaj boyfriend



cheri beloved

to cherish

karese to show affection

to touch affectionately

renmen to date
fiyanse to get engaged
marye to get married
istwa damou love story
damou tankou yon moun fou to be madly in love
lanmou ki p ap janm fini endless love



Sweet & Romantic phrases

Ou bèl. You are pretty.

You are cute.

You are beautiful.


Ou gen yon bèl souri. You have a beautiful smile.
Ou gen bèl zye. You have beautiful eyes.
Ou toujou nan panse m. I’m always thinking of you.
Mwen sonje w.

Ou manke m.

I miss you.
Ou fè kè m kontan. You make me happy.
Mwen fou pou ou I’m crazy about you.
Mwen renmen w. I love you.

I like you.

Eske ou renmen m ? Do you care for me?

Do you love me ?

Mwen renmen w anpil. I love you so much.

I like you a lot.

Mwen renmen w amò. I adore you.
Mwen renmen w tou. I love you too

I like you too.

Mwen reve w lajounen kou lannuit. I dream about you day and night
Mwen pa ka viv san ou. I can’t live without you.
Mwen renmen w ak tout kè m. I love you with all my heart


Mwen damou. I am in love.



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