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Harvard Foundation names Wyclef Jean 2010 Artist of the Year

By Eric P. Newcomer, Crimson Staff Writer

Grammy Award winner Wyclef Jean will be presented with the 2010 Artist of the Year award by the Harvard Foundation at the Cultural Rhythms afternoon show on Feb. 27.

Jean, a multi-platinum artist, rose to fame as part of the Fugees, which released its first album, “Blunted on Reality,” in 1994. In 2005, he was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture (“Hotel Rwanda”) for his song “Million Voices.”

He has drawn attention recently for his charity work. Jean, who was born in Haiti and founded the Yéle Haiti Foundation in 2005, has worked to help the Haiti recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake, which devastated the small island nation.

“We look for people who have contributed to society more than just their talent in the arts,” said Elizabeth O. Eze ’11, co-director of the Cultural Rhythms afternoon show. “We look for people who have given back.”

Cultural Rhythms, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is an all-day event that includes an afternoon luncheon. Jean will attend the luncheon and the following 3 p.m. show. Fifteen groups will perform in the afternoon event including the Kuumba Singers, the Harvard Breakers, the Asian American Dance Troupe, and the Harvard Indian Intertribal Dance Troupe. There will also be an evening show, which will not feature the artist of the year.

Cultural Rhythms is “a celebration of the culture,” said Eze.

Jean, who will be presented with a medal during the show, will be joining the ranks of Sharon Stone, Andy Garcia, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Halle Berry, Jackie Chan, Denzel Washington, Salma Hayek, and Herbie Hancock, who have all received the award.

In order to be named as this year’s Artist of the Year, Jean was nominated by participating student groups and Harvard Foundation interns, who submitted candidates’ names to the Harvard Foundation’s director for consideration, Eze said.

This is not the first time Jean has been invited to Harvard’s campus. He was scheduled to perform Nov. 6, 2005, but when the Undergraduate Council was unable to sell enough tickets to finance the event the show was canceled.

Cultural Rhythms provides an opportunity for many of Harvard’s eclectic cultural groups to perform together. There will be a finale following the afternoon show which will bring all the separate performing groups together, according to Kevin X. Liu ’11, the other co-director of Cultural Rhythms.

“This is a very amazing opportunity for all the groups to showcase their talent and their culture to the Harvard community in a unified body,” Liu said.

Student tickets for the afternoon show will cost $12, while tickets to the evening show–which will not feature Jean—will cost $5.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

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