Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival
March 22-23, 2014
In the years before the slaves were liberated, their owners in New Orleans would give them a "day off" on Sundays to get out and enjoy a little revelry. They would gather in a place known as Congo Square to sing, dance and play drums in keeping with their ancestral African heritage.
From these hypnotic African rhythms and other strains of music that filtered into New Orleans in the late 1800s came the famous musical art form now known as Jazz.
Today that colorful African heritage is celebrated during the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival in the same locale. Congo Square, now a section of Louis Armstrong Park on North Rampart Street, lies opposite the French Quarter in the now-famous Treme neighborhood. It is a convenient walking distance from the French Quarter and downtown hotels.
This year’s Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival is being held over the weekend of March 22-23. The hours are 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., both days, and it is free and open to the public.
The festival features Afro-Caribbean music, art, and food; with much of the focus on African drumming, chanting and ritualistic dancing. Scheduled to perform this year are the legendary Haitian band, Boukman Eksperyans, and the New York-based "bhangra funk" band Red Baraat. Kokanko Sata from Mali, a mesmerizing singer who plays a 21-string bridge harp known as a kora, will also take the stage.
The Congo Square Festival will also feature New Orleans-based brass bands, hip-hop artists, Mardi Gras Indians, African dance troupes and more. In addition, there will be a stage that features performances by youth groups from local schools. School-based vocal and instrumental groups, especially those specializing in gospel and jazz, will be included in the festival lineup.
The full music lineup will be announced soon and posted on the www.jazzandheritage.org/congo-square.
The Tom Dent Symposiums; named after the late Tom Dent, a noted New Orleans writer, folklorist and civil rights activist; will be held in conjunction with the festival. The symposiums will feature panel discussions on the mixing of world cultures that took place at Congo Square, resulting in the development of jazz and, by extension, all of American music. Visit the festival website for more details on the Tom Dent Symposiums.
The Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival began in 2007 and is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the same organization that stages the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and several others throughout the year. The foundation also sponsors educational events aimed at keeping New Orleans’ musical heritage alive and vibrant.
For more information on the festival lineup check local listings as the date gets closer or call (504) 558-6100. Visit the www.jazzandheritage.org/congo-square.