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Wyclef Jean performed at Akyson’s Contemporary Haiti Gala Nov. 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Photo: Colette Greenstein)

Author: Colette GreensteinWyclef Jean performed at Akyson’s Contemporary Haiti Gala Nov. 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Up close with Wyclef Jean …

Grammy Award-winning songwriter/musician/producer and humanitarian Wyclef Jean jetted into town to perform for Akyson Foundation’s fundraiser, “Contemporary Gala,” which supports the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  It was a spectacular event, produced by AJ Williams of Creative Events, and held in the new wing of the MFA.

The space was doused in bright colors of the Caribbean and the cuisine was created by renowned chef Todd English with Sunny Hostin, CNN’s legal analyst and anchor for ABC World News Now, as Mistress of Ceremonies.  That’s not all! There were fabulous auction items up for bid, including a four-night trip for two to Haiti with a stay at the Karibe Hotel; the Russell Simmons East Hamptons Estate Experience, where you and a guest would meet and greet Simmons and attend his annual charity event; and a chance to travel and stay at Wyclef’s home, somewhere in the world.

Dinner was capped with fabulous mini desserts such as crème brûlée, chocolate cake and chocolate covered strawberries.

Before Wyclef hit the stage for an electrifying performance, he generously gave his time for a round-table chat about his role as Haiti’s “Ambassador” and his upcoming projects.

As Haiti’s official/unofficial ambassador how has your role changed since the earthquake?

I came in this game as a Fugee, a refugee, and Haitians didn’t even know [that] I was Haitian.  You can ask a Haitian what’s Wyclef’s first CD and they wouldn’t know.  The first CD is called “Blunted on Reality” and the concept of the Fugees’ first CD is that we talked about the stereotypes on how they treated Haitians.

The name actually came from how we were going to make them respect boatpeople. All my life I’ve been singing policies and not just for Haiti.  

After the earthquake, I went beyond singing and put my foot in the fire in certain places where people think I have no business putting my foot in.  [Laughs]. They’re like just keep playing the guitar, playing those songs and making Shakira dance.

I just feel that my role as an ambassador has grown much more, not just in the sense of talking, but in how can we push legislation really forward and get some of the laws within the parliament and the constitution passed to make it easier for you to come to Haiti and set up a business.

Are you going to run for president in five years?

I can’t really see five years from now. I can see the Wyclef Jean School of the Arts and the Hospital.

Where will the school of the arts and the hospital be in Haiti?

The idea that I have right now is where I come from, Croix-des-Bouquets, which is a town of the artists. What I like about the town where I come from is that there is a natural thing going on with their hands, a natural mason movement going on. And the idea of this school and where I come from, it’s important to leave that legacy. I feel that there are a bunch of Wyclefs that are there.

What’s next for you musically?

[He laughs and playfully says, “Oh, thank god. My regular life.”] Well, I’m working with Def Jam and there are a few new artists coming out. The next Latin sensation that I’ll be blowing up next year is Paulina Rubio and I’ll be doing her English CD.

And, the next Wyclef album is called “Feel Good Music.” I just got back from the Middle East so we’ll probably start a tour in the summer. On February 10 of next year look out for the “Wyclef Jean Haitian Experience” at Berklee [Performing Arts Center].

The money we make from that show we’ll be buying trumpets, trombones, all kinds of instruments. Also, with the Wyclef School of the Arts that we’re building is the idea to have a Berklee wing in the school where students can share and go to Haiti to teach.  

The Aksyon Foundation was formed by Haitian citizens both living in Haiti and abroad and their mission seeks to promote and develop long-term sustainable initiatives to promote Haiti as a positive brand in the areas of tourism, entrepreneurism, permanent housing and educational programs.  Approximately $300,000 was raised by Contemporary Gala.

Coming up…

BalletRox presents Anthony Williams’ the Urban Nutcracker at the Wheelock Family Theatre beginning this Saturday, Dec. 3 through Dec. 18.

Shonda and Curt Schilling host the 5th Annual Bubbles and Bites Gala at the Ritz-Carlton on Dec. 7 featuring live music and auctions to benefit the Shade Foundation.

Mos Def performs at The Wilbur Theatre on Friday, Dec. 9.

Photographer Don West’s exhibit — “Portraits of Purpose” — will open on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill and will run through March 2012.

Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding will be performing at Scullers Jazz Club Dec. 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. with a benefit show on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. for Massachusetts General Hospital’s HOPES Program.

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