When the Saints Go Marchin' Out

From The Economist
June 28th

As gigs have become more frequent, musicians have begun trickling back, but many still have mailing addresses elsewhere; the clubs have been rebuilt, but their houses remain ruined. The Soul Rebels Brass Band, a younger ensemble that incorporates funk, R&B and hip-hop into the Dixieland tradition, is now based in Houston. Only two of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's eight members have returned to the Gentilly neighbourhood, where most of the band lived before the hurricane.

And two years after the hurricane, donor fatigue is setting in. The New Orleans Musicians' Relief Fund (NOMRF), another organisation that helps displaced musicians, is preparing to release an album for the two-year “anti-versary” in August. The album will be called “Redefine 8/29”, referring to the day New Orleans was evacuated. Jeff Beninato, the musician who founded NOMRF, says that the title could not refer directly to the hurricane. “If they hear Katrina, they'll think, ‘I don't want to hear that; that's old news.’”

But spare a thought for that most iconic of New Orleans institutions, the funeral with music. A brass band playing sombre dirges leads the mourners and the body tearfully through the streets, from church to cemetery. The body goes into the ground, and the tone changes: the music becomes upbeat, and the mourners turn to revellers, celebrating the life of the departed. Neither Dixieland nor New Orleans is yet a corpse, of course, but nowhere else is quite as adept at wringing joy from tragedy.

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