New Orleans’ Transcendent Cultural Ecology

An 1817 plan of New Orleans, engraved by William Rollinson.[Drawing from "The World That Made New Orleans"/NYT]
An 1817 plan of New Orleans, engraved by William Rollinson.[Drawing from The World That Made New Orleans/NYT]

If you know what it means to miss New Orleans, you need to listen to Ned Sublette celebrate the city’s marvelous musical history on Open Source with Christopher Lydon. Here’s a snatch of what he said:

Something I have learned concretely at various times in my life (most graphically after the flood that took out New Orleans in 2005) is that after a rupture, when things come back and they’re not the same, the new conditions will ultimately create new music. But in the short run, what you want is to hang on to your past. You want to find a continuity with what went before. The first thing we wanted to know after the flood was if Fats Domino was okay? Would there be a second line again? Would there be another jazz funeral? Would the Mardi Gras Indians come out on Mardi Gras Day? It was of key importance for the survival of New Orleans — not just black New Orleans, but New Orleans as a whole — that that happened. That is a small reflection of the feat that enslaved Africans accomplished in the new world pretty much everywhere they were taken…

Ned Sublette’s The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square has just been named 2009 Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Read NYT book review. Read more about Ned Sublette on Cuban music.

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