Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Orleans Jazz Festival

The annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is coming up, April 23 through May 2 (we should have a field trip!) This is a yearly celebration of the city's musical and cultural roots, that started in 1970 as a small festival and has grown into a two weekend long jamboree. The festival focuses on the musical history of the city, as the founders of the event "wanted to create an event worthy of the city’s legacy as the birthplace of jazz," and performers come from near and far to play or sing at this big event. The festival shows the pride that New Orleans takes in its musical roots and its unique culture, as it showcases many musicians, past and present that claim the city as their place of origin--like Louis Armstrong. Internationally known performers also come, like Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison, which highlights the importance and presence New Orleans has as a well-known musical city.
It is also the "Heritage" festival, meaning there is more to the celebration than music. The modern festival includes food booths, arts and crafts, and cultural displays of the many different groups that make up New Orleans: Haitian, Native American, African, South American, and others. The "foods and crafts" section of the website described the mixed culture: "Like its signature dish, gumbo, Louisiana is a spicy stew comprised of many distinctive elements — African American, Cajun, Native American, IsleƱo and practically everything in between." It is a presentation of the city's entire culture, centering around its music, but extending to the many other colorful aspects of the city. Interestingly, the article does not really mention the racial divides that we have been reading so much about, though this seems to be an integral part of the development of jazz in New Orleans. Perhaps at the actual festival more is presented, through words and music, about the history of the city itself.
Another interesting aspect of the festival is the Community Day of Service, in which volunteers come together to help build homes for the musicians and "cultural community." It is really interesting and wonderful that such a tradition has sprung up, where people will give their time and effort to help encourage the musical and cultural communities to live and grow. In our readings, being a musician was not always seen as an upstanding job, especially by the Downtown Creoles, and there was a lot of tension between different minorities. Now, it seems, though obviously not all of the problems of race are solved, there are people who work together to help both of these groups. This really represents a community element of the city, as it helps to take care of some of the aspects of its people--the "cultural groups" and the musicians--that make it so unique.

No comments:

Post a Comment