New Orleans could reasonably be described as the Mesopotamia of North American music. Crescent City—rich with aural traditions from Africa, France, Haiti and Cuba—is the cradle from which jazz and R&B sprang, thanks to legendary musicians Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Wynton Marsalis (just to name a few).
New Orleans also played an instrumental role in the development of rock-and-roll, in part due to the work of Fats Domino and Lee Dorsey, and hip-hop of course has some strong ties to the region, both in terms of musical roots and talent.
Frank Ocean was born in California but grew up among New Orleans gnarled yet majestic oaks. So did the '90s-era all-stars Master P and Silkk the Shocker. The very different sounding alt-band Better than Ezra also hails from the Big Easy.
The Meters mined funk in the gulf region back in the late 1960s, and today Jay Electronica is pioneering new sounds with a blend of hip-hop, industrial synth and spoken word. Queer artists Big Freedia and Katey Red are keeping the city's native bounce genre alive in the French Quarter, just down the road from where legendary cross-dressing singer Bobby Marchan used to perform in the 1950s.
Peppy French horns and trumpets of the second line are heard in the marching bands featured on HBO's Treme, while in darker corners you'll encounter serious hard rock from the likes of Pantera and Soilent Green, both of whom used the gloom of economically depressed 1980s New Orleans to give fresh grist to the heavy metal mill.
Here, in 31 tracks, a brief tour of The Big Easy's fertile musical grounds. There's a love of life here. There's lovelorn nostalgia and drunken revelry. There's gritty desperation and no shortage of superstition. But most of all, there's a contemplative determination, perhaps the city's most abundant resource.
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