New Orleans is a meeting ground. Its strategic location has long attracted diverse peoples and ideas, whose collaborations have forged extraordinary cultural, economic, and ecological innovations. This essay, offered in two parts, surveys the cultural and historical geographies of music in New Orleans. Overlapping with the AAG conference and free of charge! In this first of two parts, I treat the city from its founding in the early-eighteenth century through the emergence of jazz in the early-twentieth century, providing historical-geographical context for the distinct and diverse musical cultures emanating from New Orleans. After founding the city in , France ceded New Orleans to Spain in The city spent four formative decades under Spanish control, undergoing significant demographic, urban, and economic growth. Napoleonic France briefly regained control of the city in before selling it to the United States just three weeks later in the Louisiana Purchase.
Jazz and Heritage and Then Some
Culture Trip stands with Black Lives Matter. From the s until his death in the s, Louis Armstrong was an acclaimed trumpeter and one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Today, the city continues to honor him with an eponymous park, which happens to be the site of numerous music festivals and events along with a three-day festival in August held around his birthday. Even the airport, where visitors are often greeted by jazz over the loudspeakers, if not a live band, is named after him. Allen Toussaint was a much-beloved musical icon and popular member of the community who was frequently spotted around town in one of his many classic cars, waving to passersby. Over the years, he recorded with both local artists and international superstars, including the Rolling Stones and The Who. Music remained his passion up until his death, where he died on tour at the age of 77 in Spain.
The Music of New Orleans: March 2017
Yet it lives in the immediate present, the moment when music generates motion. Jazz Fest, as everyone calls it, is as stubbornly exceptional and as proudly nostalgic as the city it reflects. First presented in , the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival became one template for the modern pop festival, like Coachella or Bonnaroo, with music on multiple stages, assorted nonmusic exhibitions, and food and crafts vendors geared to the crowd. But where other major festivals tend to be brief invasions of their locales, Jazz Fest is an institution, inseparable from the city where it also sponsors free events through the year and supports the only-in-New-Orleans public radio station WWOZ. And where other major festivals have current pop hitmakers as their big draws, along with an undercard of new acts striving to reach the main stage in a year or two, Jazz Fest prizes the regional over the national, putting just a few big names in headlining spots. Nearly everything else — except, this year, for a contingent of superb bands from Cuba — stays local and familiar, as untrendy as a festival can be.
The music of New Orleans assumes various styles of music which have often borrowed from earlier traditions. New Orleans , Louisiana , is especially known for its strong association with jazz music , universally considered to be the birthplace of the genre. The earliest form was dixieland , which has sometimes been called traditional jazz , 'New Orleans', and 'New Orleans jazz'. However, the tradition of jazz in New Orleans has taken on various forms that have either branched out from original dixieland or taken entirely different paths altogether. New Orleans has also been a prominent center of funk , home to some of the earliest funk bands such as The Meters. The African influence on New Orleans music can trace its roots at least back to Congo Square in New Orleans in , when slaves would congregate there to play music and dance on Sundays. African music was played as well as local music, including that of local white composers, such as Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Along with European musical forms that were popular in the city, including the brass band traditions, the cultural mix laid the groundwork for the New Orleans musical art forms to come. By , the local paper—the daily Picayune —ran a scathing article complaining about the emergence of brass bands in the city, which it stated could be found on every corner. The term "jazz" early on often spelled "jass" did not become popular until the mid and late s, when New Orleans musicians first rose to prominence in other parts of the USA and the New Orleans style needed a new name to differentiate it from the nationally popular ragtime.