Evolving Peace

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Living Music and New Orleans

Music and politics at first glance have no relation to each other but a closer look reveals the trial and tribulations of life. Experience of music has given an alternative perspective to my journey here on planet earth. Legendary rock promoter Bill Graham was quoted as saying “Music is the heart of the heartless world.”

Revolving around in this life on planet earth at times we can feel that there are dark forces trying to smash us apart and it gets difficult to see the light of day. Fortunately, well before the invention of the car radio and Ipod live entertainment and music was formed by man’s ability for creative expression. For Centuries music has provided entertainment from emperors to slaves. Whether it was with the majestic melodies of a harp, the rusty vibrations of a harmonica or the rhythmic palpitations of a drum, music has captivated the souls of all.

Music is a part of our everyday life. To a child, “I hear music every where,” but as adults society tends to loose track of its sweet sounds. I have been blessed with the sounds of music throughout my life. My youth was filled with the colored sounds of the Grateful Dead; it was there that I learned the connection of music and life.

My music tastes evolved from that into a broad spectrum of genres. The rock/folk sounds of Bob Dylan philosophically connected his words and poetry into my own being. The rusty sounds of Neil Young spotlighted the inter-generational link between the modern world and the simplistic ways of the past. The finger picking guitar playing of Willie Nelson surged the rebellious nature in me. The funk sounds of Maceo Parker, the Meters and James Brown grooved me into senses of euphoria. Jazz greats Ornette Coleman and Herbie Hancock mesmerized my consciousness. The power of the blues in Etta James’s belting out her luscious pipes seduced my soul. Ani DiFranco’s onslaught of societal norms continued my natural
predilection to question. The soulful voice of Aaron Neville with the Neville Brothers grounded me to life here on planet earth. Music is more than just noise; it is a deep connection of the inner workings of the soul.

Making a profound impact of my life was my introduction to the New Orleans music scene. Once caught by the bug, there ain’t no turning back. I have not been back to New Orleans since Jazz Fest of 2005, right before the onslaught of Katrina. So, last night was special to see two ambassadors of the New Orleans music scene playing at the ornate Flynn Theater in Burlington. The long and tall Marcia Ball fused her New Orleans musical roots into bluesy rock numbers that captivated the audience’s attention. Buckwheat Zydeco, the pop star of Zydeco attempted to heat up the joint with his Cajun infused accordion.

The warm swamp boogie was no match for the frigid banks of Lake Champlain. If you ever have gone to New Orleans, music is just not to listen to, it is a participatory event. The dance is part of the show and it barely is any other way. From beer halls, to street festivals to parades, to dance is to be a part of the show. Anytime I see a New Orleans band outside of New Orleans it perplexes me in seeing the crowds’ reaction. I have seen Marcia Ball play until 4am and with many others of New Orleans great talents dancing until the rising of the sun. That is where the party is, it is not with the booze or the spirits it is with the dance.

The passion and joy that New Orleans has given me is hard to explain in words, so when Katrina hit New Orleans multiple tears immersed in my eye. As a frequent visitor to New Orleans, I now that New Orleans was more than just the Bourbon Street Crawl or the St. Charles Street car line. Music was a big part of the life and vibrancy of the town. While deep pockets of poverty spread throughout town many found solace in the music and it gave them the joy of life. I like many others donated tons of money in order to assist those in need while the government pondered blame. The news media dominated coverage but just like the attention deficiency of American school children they have moved on to something else. Despite the lack of attention it does not mean the problem has been solved. New Orleans is still not recovered, so while The Saints almost made it to the Super Bowl and the tourist French Quarter is returning to normalcy the city has been let down by America.

America’s heart is good, but we have lost focus on our government. Today the President marches to a different drum than the America. Whatever happened to the world’s largest reconstruction program or is it just a casualty like the forgotten neighborhoods of America’s cities and rural countryside. Instead lost in the rhetoric of political speeches of the President and the loyal opposition, the beating heart of New Orleans is still submerged. I have not forgotten the voices of New Orleans; they parade within me day and night. The music of New Orleans is special and I hope it will live on and help evolve society into a kinder gentler nation. Get up and dance and live the music.

Robb Kidd

“It's like the audience is the fifth Neville Brother…On a good night, it's like everybody's gigging. They don't know it at the time; they think they're just out there having fun. They're part of the show. That's what makes this live album so much more genuine an experience. Because you can hear the camaraderie that's part of what happens when we play. It's like a spiritual revival and a Mardi Gras parade at the same time." Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers.”


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