Le New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, "Jazz fest" for close friends, is one of the great gatherings of popular culture in the United States. For ten days, from April 23 to May 2, the city of Louis Armstrong will vibrate to the rhythm of jazz, but also other traditional Louisiana music. Because the festival invites you to rediscover the rich heritage of this state, shaped by the Cajuns, Native Americans and the descendants of African slaves. This year, South Africa will also be entitled to special attention, as part of the international celebrations of the 10th anniversary of its first free elections.
Back to basics for American jazz
During its first edition, in Orleans had gathered 350 people. Today, with more than 500 spectators at each of its editions for several years, it is one of the flagship events of the jazz planet in the world. Nothing very surprising, you will say, in the city cradle of these rhythms nourished by African reminiscences, which revolutionized music at the end of the XIXth century, a city which gave birth to geniuses of jazz like Louis Armstrong!
The Jazz Fest is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, with an enticing poster once again. Every evening for ten days, official concerts, and others improvised, will be given throughout the city, notably at the municipal auditorium, near Louis Armstrong Park, or in jazz clubs such as the Palm Court Jazz Café. . Some of the guests whose fame has crossed American borders include BB King, Harry Connick Jr, The Neville Brothers or Diane Reeves. But the cast is not confined to jazz alone, since we can also attend concerts by rocker Lenny Kravitz, guitarist Santana, pop artist Macy Gray, reggae singer Shaggy or even Wyclef Jean, a former Fugees.
- Purchase of tickets from Ticketmaster, by Internet, by phone (001-800-488-5252 outside the USA, or 504-522-5555 from Louisiana), or by mail, after printing the online order form, to be sent to Ticketmaster, PO Box 57118, New Orleans, LA 7118, USA.
The real originality of the New Orleans Jazz Fest lies in its "Heritage" aspect, which strives to place in the spotlight the richness and diversity of the cultural, culinary and artisanal heritage. of Louisiana. Because let's not forget that beyond jazz, it is also the country of Cajuns, Afro-American culture and Native Americans! The Louisiana Heritage Fair is held only during the opening and closing weekends of the festival, at the city's racecourse, where large tents representing twelve different stands are erected.
We can thus visit an "Amerindian village", in which demonstrations of pow wow, wood carving, basket making, etc. will be organized. At the Fais do-do stage, named after the traditional Cajun musical and dancing festival on Saturday evening, we will listen to groups of zydeco, popular music born from the fusion of blues and Cajun folklore. There will also be a gospel stand where you can listen to religious groups, another dedicated to African and Afro-American cultures, with an African market where you can buy crafts, but also a place specially reserved for children, the Kid's tent. For the gourmets, let's add that we can taste a hundred local specialties: po-boys, soft-shell crab, jambalaya, alligator spicy sauce, etc. We let you discover!
- Louisiana Heritage Fair, at the Fair Grounds Race Course, 1751 Gentilly Boulevard (10 minutes from the French Quarter). April 23 to 25 and April 29 to May 2, 11 a.m. to 19 p.m. Tickets for the day: 20 US $ in advance (Ticketmaster), or 25 US $ on site.
South Africa as guest of honor
As the festival celebrates its 35th edition, South Africa will celebrate Tuesday April 27 the 10th anniversary of its first free and multiracial elections, after a long apartheid regime. Numerous commemorative events are planned around the world, some of which started before the date while others will take place throughout the year. It was only natural that the New Orleans Jazz Fest decided to join the celebrations. Thus, the Congo square stand, traditionally dedicated to Afro-American cultures, is renamed this year "South African freedom": it will host 80 Africans. These include, among others, the unmissable White Zulu, Johnny Clegg, but also the trumpeter Hugh Masekela or the dancers of the Pride of Zulu troupe. And of course, South African art and crafts will also be in the spotlight, such as the famous colorful murals of the Ndebele.
Pay attention to hotel prices! As in any event of this importance, they have an annoying tendency to fly away ... The prices indicated are those practiced in normal periods.
Or sleep ?
- Mazant Guesthouse: 906 Mazant, at the corner of Burgundy. Phone. : (001) 504-944-2662. Doubles at US $ 40, or US $ 44 with bathroom. Deposit required on booking. Spacious and charming old plantation house, away from the tourist bustle in a neighborhood that we love. Parquet, ventilos, furniture from the 1930s and old-fashioned beds in ten well-kept rooms. The whole is clean and welcoming. Free access to the well-equipped kitchen. Bicycles for hire. Free parking next to the house. A great address.
Where to eat ?
- Gumbo Shop: 630 Saint Peter St, at Royal 525-1486. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 23 p.m. Main courses from 10 to 20 US $. Pretty house with elegant surroundings. Many tourists come to taste the Cajun specialties. All the classics are there: jambalaya, gumbo ... Quite spicy. Good regular service, despite the "what-it-turns" side.
Where to listen to jazz in a legendary box?
Preservation Hall: 726 Saint Peter St, at Royal St. Concert every evening from 20:30 pm to midnight. Five sets of about 30 minutes each, but once you've paid the 5 US $ entry, you can stay all evening. We stay standing or we queue before the opening to enjoy the few benches or small foams placed on the ground, just under the noses of the musicians. No drinks are served here and smoking is prohibited. On the other hand, you will hear great jazz. The only place in New Orleans that prefers not to use a microphone; the orchestra is left to play louder! the average age of musicians is 60 years. They'll play Ice Cream or Basin Street for you, and you'll want more.
- The Jazz Fest website: www.nojazzfest.com.
- The official website for the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa: www.10years.gov.za.