[Dixielandjazz] 3000 - 5000 New Orleans Musical Refugees
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 16 06:40:34 PDT 2005
Because of our DJKML subject focus, we often overlook "New Orleans Music".
The below article talks about the 3000 to 5000 or so New Orleans Musicians
that have been affected by Katrina . . . What? . . . Yes 3000 to 5000.
Be that as it may, it is the musician's spirit that counts.
Where Musical Refugees Can Thicken the Gumbo
By KIRK JOHNSON - September 15, 2005 - NY TIMES
LAFAYETTE, La., Sept. 10 - The rich musical culture of New Orleans, where so
much of American music finds its taproot in the African-inspired sounds of
jazz, blues and rock, has been tossed to the four winds. Some musicians,
many of whom fled Hurricane Katrina without so much as their instruments,
have headed west to Austin, Tex., or Los Angeles, others have gone north to
Chicago, New York or Atlanta.
And many are landing here, nearer to home, in a place with its own deep
musical traditions, anchored in the accordion-driven two-step Cajun sound
called zydeco that harks back to 18th-century Nova Scotia. No one knows what
will come of the dispersal of New Orleans's artistic life, or whether the
thousands of musical transients will become transplants. Like so much else
in the aftermath of the hurricane, the question is unresolved.
But here in Lafayette, where Cajun French can still be heard in the street,
the signs are bilingual and old French Canada is the musical touchstone,
musicians - locals and evacuees - are expecting a flowering of creativity.
The things that have shaped musical expression since the first minor chord
was plucked - longing, an aching for home, the need for paying gigs - are
stronger now than ever, they say.
"There's a difference between New Orleans music and Lafayette music - this
will erase that boundary line," said Dickie Landry, a veteran saxophone
player who lives here and was waiting backstage to jam with a band playing
at an outdoor fund-raising concert for Hurricane Katrina victims in the
center of town on Saturday. "The gumbo is going to get thicker," he said.
Other musicians say that whatever happens here or in recording studios in
Los Angeles or Nashville, the old musical life of New Orleans will never be
Many of the displaced musicians say that what made New Orleans special was
the unbroken tradition of its musical heritage, extending back to the days
before the Civil War, when slaves would gather on Sundays in places like
Congo Square to play music in celebration or in mourning. Some people will
no doubt return to a rebuilt, restored New Orleans, they say, and some will
not, but no New Orleans musician will be quite the same after the experience
of the hurricane, and neither will the "New Orleans sound" that many
musicians say was steeped in their bones.
"It's Armageddon for the culture," David Torkanowsky, a New Orleans pianist
who lost just about everything he owns in the storm. "Never before in the
history of this music has there been a complete and utter dispersal."
Mr. Torkanowsky is staying near Lafayette with a friend, Zachary Richard,
who lives here and in Montreal and sings traditional Cajun music in French
and English. They performed together here at Saturday night's benefit, with
Mr. Torkanowsky accompanying Mr. Richard (pronounced ree-SHARD) on his song
"Big River," written long before Hurricane Katrina, about a devastating
flood on the Mississippi.
"Standing on the levee with the river raging," Mr. Richard sang to a hushed
crowd, "I've got nothing left to lose."
When the song was over, the two men embraced and the audience roared.
Other musicians are more hopeful. Eddie Bo, a mainstay of rhythm and blues
piano for half a century in New Orleans, was flying home from a tour date in
Paris on the day the storm struck. Now he and two members of his band - the
saxophone player Red Morgan and the drummer Dwayne Nelson - are together in
exile, staying with friends near Lafayette. The band's guitarist is in
Lafayette. The bass player is in Chicago.
Mr. Bo said he thought that much of New Orleans musical life would stay as
close as it could to that city in the months ahead because going farther
would be too jarring in a time of grief and loss, even if the opportunities
were better elsewhere. As for the music, he said, it will no doubt evolve
and change along the way, as it always has.
"Something good has got to come from this disaster," he said. "That's God's
plan." Then he added: "And you can tell people we're available and looking
At least one New Orleans native, Lenny McDaniel, has already decided to stay
in Lafayette permanently. Mr. McDaniel, who said he managed to get out of
New Orleans with his best guitar and his best piano, has taken an apartment
here and plans to sell his house in New Orleans. It was not severely damaged
by the hurricane, he said, but he thinks the city will never be the same.
"I'm a survivor," he said. "I don't have a lot of anything, but I've got my
life and my dog. I think I'm going to do really well here."
Some of the shift to Lafayette, a city of 110,000 about two hours west of
New Orleans, is coincidental: a healthcare organization for New Orleans
musicians, called the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, took up temporary
residence here after the storm and has been reaching out to members. The
clinic is sharing space with a sister organization called Health Care for
The clinic's executive director, Michelle Gegenheimer, said she had no idea
how many of New Orleans's 3,000 to 5,000 full-time musicians were here, but
that more than 100 came by last week when she set up a booth downtown. At an
impromptu jam session in a downtown club earlier in the week, all eight
musicians onstage were from New Orleans.
Programs specifically aimed at helping displaced musicians are being set up
as well. Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit musician-support
organization in Hillsborough, N.C., has started the New Orleans Musicians
Fund (information at musicmaker.org), and is sending money to help the
clinic here in Lafayette. Radio station WWOZ, an anchor of New Orleans
musical culture, has set up a list on its Web site (wwoz.org), so that
displaced musicians and fans can find one another in the post-hurricane
What will happen to the music is anybody's guess. Some musicians say they
think horn sections, which have fallen out of fashion in Cajun music in the
last generation or so, could make a comeback through New Orleans horn
players, ushering in a new era of Cajun funk. Others say that urban soul and
country Cajun exuberance could spawn some new child altogether.
Mr. Morgan, who has played saxophone in Mr. Bo's band for 40 years, said
everyone has embarked on a new journey since the hurricane. But
improvisation, he said, is the same: a musician marching off into the
unknown, hoping for the best.
The issue is where you come out at the end, he said, and whether a path can
be found to resolve the musical line you are on in a way that works.
"You wind up being right because of how you resolve it," he said. "You just
have to know inside you that the place can be found."
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