Jazz has a long history in the black South, getting its origins from the songs found between the pages of old hymnals, folk songs passed from generation to generation, and the deep soulful notes of the Blues. Nowhere has this genre flourished in the American South as it has in New Orleans. So last weekend, a friend and I hopped in my Jeep and made the 14-hour trip (talk about some quality bonding time) from North Carolina to New Orleans for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
I arrived at the festival expecting to hear a few talented artists, but what I got was a cultural immersion. This vibrant music festival truly encompasses its name, celebrating jazz and New Orleans heritage through top-notch jazz, gospel, and blues performances, Native American Pow Wows, Zulu parades, and the presence of what seemed like every authentic Louisiana dish you can imagine from Crawfish Monica to alligator po’boys. Being there was like experiencing the culmination of all that New Orleans has to offer. In short – it was amazing!
Like many music festivals, Jazz Fest was a multi-stage venue, with performances starting at 11 a.m. and running until just after 7 p.m. Everyone from local artists, to Louisiana’s own Grammy-winning Rebirth, to Pit Bull, to John Legend (personal favorite!), Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, to Jimmy Buffet graced the stage. For those who appreciate quality music across genres, it was paradise. My friends and I endured hurricane-like rains, 90-degree heat, muddy fields, and horse flies (because y’all nothing says you’re in the South like getting bit by a horse fly) and we’d do it all. No question.
Beyond the festival, this was my first time in New Orleans, and as my friend Mike so eloquently said – “New Orleans is God’s city”. Being in NOLA is like being in an entirely new part of the world. From the food, to the accents, to the non-stop partying, I was in awe of how much of the culture of the city was so readily apparent. Whether walking down Bourbon Street, eating beignets at Café Du Monde, or listening to the Dirty Dozen Jazz Band at DBA, you could feel the pride and love that the residents of Orleans Parrish have for their community. It’s electrifying! I’m certified socialite (read party-girl) and even I couldn’t hang with New Orleans.
What started as a fun getaway for good food and good music, quickly turned into a more fun than I could have imagined cultural learning experience. So add it to your bucket list – in fact, I’ll just go ahead and say I’ll see you there next year!