We’re not exaggerating when we say there is either a festival or a parade every week of the year in New Orleans. Sometimes, such as during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, it feels like there’s a new party for every hour of the day. At almost any celebration in town, people engage in masking – donning a new appearance via some form of costuming – while acting out the satyric side of human behaviour. But the celebrations and rituals of New Orleans are as much about history as hedonism, and every dance is as much an expression of tradition and community spirit as it is of joy.
New Orleans is the hometown of jazz, but neither the city nor the genre it birthed are museum pieces. Jazz is the root of American popular music, the daddy of rock, brother of the blues and not too distant ancestor of hip-hop – all styles of music that have defined the beat of global pop for decades. All these varieties of music, plus a few you may never have heard of, are practised and played here on every corner, in any bar, every night of the week. Live music isn’t an event: it’s as crucial to the city soundscape as streetcar bells.