New Orleans: Jazz Town

For many of us, family is where comfort and stability will always exist in the chaos present in our lives. With family, comes the many traditions, customs and values we hold within our specific culture. It’s interesting how cultural music can affect individuals in a society. Music has developed in different ethnic groups around the globe and has served to communicate a representation of the world and give depth to cultural experiences through familiar rythmes that bring the culture together. It manifests how historical past and present is conceived.

New Orleans, Louisianna is mostly known for Jazz music, the musical style that originated in the heart of the city in the early 20th century. Jazz is often associated with rythme and blues. Its African influence traces back to the Congo Square, where slaves would play music and dance on Sundays. With such a historical background, the music yields a strong sense of cultural pride. Since the 1920’s (The Jazz Era), the people in New Orleans have gathered to listen to the music that shaped their traditions and created a place where everyone could feel welcomed. Jazz historian, Bruce Raeburn once said, “There were opportunities for interaction, in spite of segregation, and many neighborhoods were a crazy quilt with blacks, whites and Creoles living together.” Through Jazz music, different races were brought together in a sense of freedom and traditional heritage. The music creates an undeniable “at home” effect on a wide variety of listeners who come from French, African, Cuban, White, and other backgrounds. It’s a phenomenon that remains true and continues to flourish today. There are Jazz festivals held in New Orleans every year that bring this sense of comfort and freedom among everyone.

To tap into the cultural state of mind in New Orleans, I reccommend the city’s  native and five time grammy award winner, Terence Blanchard. He’s said to play his trumpet like a seasoned athlete. His ability to bend notes slowly with the perfect precision creates a rythme of jazz that can take anyone on a journey to New Orleans.

In summer 2004, I went on a family trip to New Orleans for a week to visit some friends. Seeing the city’s livlihood and love for the art of Jazz music came as a real shock to me, but in a good way. I had never experienced a city so invested in their musical traditions. As I walked through Burbon Street, Jazz musicians played on corners of every sidewalk as crowds of people cheered and danced for them. This was a liberating experience for me because I was able to join this different culture and feel just as welcomed as if I had come from their same roots. By watching the jazz musicians perform, I was exposed to the life, love, culture, and togetherness through the passion they had in composing these rythmes. The effect Jazz music had on me and the way I perceive New Orleans culture will always remain close to my heart as I keep in mind the traditions and practices of my own culture. Now I have a better understanding that through musical culture, there is always a place for someone to call “home.”

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