Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on May 16th 2007 5:00PM by Steve Baltin
1. It's Still Recovering: People should realize although it's no longer in the media, it's still really a city that's in crisis. And it's very slowly being rebuilt, but it's a long way from being back to its pre-Katrina-disaster status. And I know there are still countless thousands of families that are in a state of flux. They're trying to get back to their homes, trying to rebuild, and they just can't. So it's far from resolved.
2. The Rebuilding Question: I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of New Orleans, 'cause, in many ways, the disaster threw up a lot of questions, rather than just being a case of "We go in there and reinstate everything as it was." A lot of people have been using this as an excuse to question the validity of building in certain [impoverished] areas like the Lower Ninth Ward or St. Bernard Parish.
3. It's More Than the French Quarter: The music is not something that resides in the French Quarter. The French Quarter is the area people know when they go to New Orleans for those conventions or whatever. And it's a beautiful part of the city, it's one of the oldest parts. But actually it's in the suburbs, in those districts that people didn't go to very often if they were visiting the city, where the musicians live. And that's the place where these great musical traditions that go back centuries were held and revered and passed down from generation to generation. I think from a musical standpoint they are really important and should definitely be given a priority, in terms of dollars, to aid their re-establishment. Because if these areas are allowed to vanish, I think what's also vanishing is many of these unique musical ideas and traditions that just simply will not survive if they're outside of the concentrated environment of a community like the Lower Ninth Ward.
4. The Second-Line Tradition: A lot of the stuff that's most interesting is stuff people may not even know about, like the whole second-line tradition, the jazz funeral tradition, which I only fully started to understand on my most recent visits. The processions were made up of the first line, which was the family members; the second line, which came in behind that, was members of the particular social and recreational club that person was a member of. And they would be dressed up to the nines in these amazing suits and there would be a band that would play that would be a part of that club. So these second-line brass bands would play, on the way to the grave, these very somber songs, very dirgelike, mostly brass instruments but some percussion. And then as soon as the funeral's over, they would break into a much more uptempo music, and often it would be 'When The Saints Go Marching In.' It became like a standard, and it would erupt into this kind of street party and people dancing in the street, celebrating on the way back from the grave. In that -- the regalia, the clothes, and the whole processional part -- it's all a hybrid between of African and American tradition, all wrapped up, and you don't get that anywhere else.
5. The Spirit of New Orleans: I think that it's amazingly resilient. People have had to go through the worst possible disaster; it's an unimaginable event for most people to lose your entire home, everything in your home, to lose your job, to have to move to a different city and to literally totally start your life over. So the fact that they have a very positive attitude about the future is really incredible, and it's a great testimony to them and to the community spirit and to the place itself. But I would say when the music comes back, whenever I've been at a music event, it seems to lift everybody further.