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Haitian artists rarely make an appearance at Miami-Broward Carnival. The line-up for the Caribbean celebration in Miami is generally a who’s who of soca stars. But this year the big surprise, which was only announced this week, is that Haitian-American rap artist and former Fugees member, Wyclef Jean will make a cameo at the event.

Jean, who also did a pop-up show in Little Haiti this year, has been prodigiously producing music this year, with the release of his EP “J’ouvert” earlier in 2017 and the third chapter of his “Carnival” trilogy, released Sept. 15. The album marks the 20 year anniversary of his groundbreaking album “The Carnival,” a jubilant record that blended hip-hop with everything from disco (“We’re Trying to Stay Alive”) to salsa (“Guantanamera”) and even fearlessly sidelined rap all together to slip into a nostalgic ballad (“Gone Till November”). “My ‘Carnival’ albums have always been about celebrating music culture from all parts of the world and ‘Carnival III’ is no different,” Jean said.

Jean is set to join the Carnival parade this Sunday at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds. “As I celebrate the release of my new album…what better way to party then at the Carnival in Miami,” said Jean. “I can’t wait to enjoy three days of culture, food and music.”

Unfortunately, Jean’s album dropped mid-September, during a very active hurricane season that devastated Caribbean islands like Dominica, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. This year, Carnival will not only be a celebration, but a fundraiser as well, soliciting donations for the Miami Foundation’s U.S. Caribbean Strong Relief Fund.

The message of this year’s Carnival is of unity, says Marlon Hill, a Miami attorney and past Trustee of the Miami Foundation working to coordinate Carnival’s contribution to relief efforts. The spirit of Caribbean brotherhood will be on display Friday night at Carnival Kingdom at Mana Wynwood, where Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin will come together to perform their soca smash hit “Buss Head.” The former rivals set aside their differences early in the year to record their single, which has become an anthem for this year’s Carnival season. The song is a celebration of the centuries old martial art Kalinda, a form of stick fighting still practiced in Trinidad & Tobago.

“Our ‘Buss Head’ movement is an inspiration to our resilience and perseverance especially during times of personal and national challenges. This hurricane season is testing us. We will not yield,” said Machel Montano in a statement.

Jean echoes Montano’s determination to find strength and joy through community and music: “On Carnival I, I was ‘Gone till November;’ on Carnival II, I found ‘The Sweetest Girl,’ and now on Carnival III, it’s all about celebrating life because we all on ‘Borrowed Time.’”

He’s right. So it’s time to play mas.

By Amy Reyes