New Orleans, a name synonymous with music, has recently been steeped in things other than music. The devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina has caused untold grief and many lives have been lost and homes destroyed; indeed, an entire city was forced to come to terms with its mortality in a most brutal and fearsome manner, submerged under the fury of nature, and left hanging in abeyance, spirit, guts, heart and all.The desolation and ruin brought about by Hurricane Katrina had hidden in it another fear, or whether a unique and vibrant city may be lost forever.
Something not instantly perceptible, but truly invaluable in its own right had been swept clearly away in the floods - the soul of a city groomed by the voice of dissension. And it has been brought up before, this question of identity ? is New Orleans really American? It was unique and stood completely apart, with nothing else quite like it in all of America. Everything, from the architecture, to food, music and culture, was original, and for those who love original, New Orleans is, or was, heaven on earth.This is endorsed by the fact that it is truly a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. The city's history is dotted with invasions and subsequent settlements from the Spanish, French and American people.
Perhaps this has something to do with its distinctive essence.Many jazz junkies and artists alike claim that New Orleans is the home of jazz. And perhaps this is borne out by the fact that African slaves got together at Congo Square and made music. Jazz then came to be known as the voice of subversion.
And perhaps again, this is what gave New Orleans its identity ? a city of free spirits, carnivals and all things that stand for nonconformity, abandon and emancipation. The music that it gave birth to created it.The first half of the 20th century witnessed a mood of great acceptance, unlike anywhere else in the region. Many jazz musicians loathed leaving their home ? New Orleans ? and venturing to other lands unknown, neighboring states though they were. Such was the spirit of tolerance in this city where diverse groups from equally diverse ethnic backgrounds mingled in harmony.New Orleans gave America so much.
And we can only hope that this great city will be able to recover.
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By: Peter Emerson