I admired you from afar for so long and always wondered when we’d finally meet. (I actually planned to come in 2005, but another woman named Katrina intervened). But last year, we finally met and it was well worth the wait. In one day, I saw the Mardi Gras Indians gather and process, drummed in Congo Square and sang with Ysaye Barnwell in a Community Sing. It was a great first date.
But this time around was the real deal. You showed me your tempestuous self alongside your considerable charms and it just made me love you more. I’ve had to travel so far to find the kind of musical community I’ve always dreamed of— to Bali, to Bulgaria, to Brazil and a country just south of Burkina Faso (Ghana). But you have the same deal going on with the added bonus that it’s closer to my skin. It’s jazz and blues and brass and gypsy guitars. It’s American.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1) A walk down Frenchmen St. is a sonic delight, the 52ndSt. scene in New York I missed and now is only a nostalgic sign. But you are alive and well!
2) Your troubadours sing the full spectrum of Americana without snobbish insistence that one is the best. The same people playing Trad Jazz, swing, be-bop, cool, Latin, modern, rhythm ‘n’ blues, Cajun, Zydeco, all the different ways to sing out freedom.
3) Everyone knows everyone. There’s a hierarchy of accomplishment, but it’s a flexible one, connected rather than divisive.
4) It’s a city of relationships, talking about your aunt’s collard greens with the audience before launching into the stratosphere of extraordinary technique and complex harmonies.
5) You honor and respect the elders, who in turn guide the youth in their role as culture bearers.
6) Your people greet strangers as they pass, people in offices talk like people instead of machines and enjoy a friendly conversation.
Shall I go on? Your architecture, your alluring charisma, your waterways, your living history, your distinctive cuisine, your extravagant moods (the weather!), the overhanging live oaks, the song of the mockingbird and the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen. If you can hold out against the rising seas, I will be back!
All my love to you!