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Music You Won’t Hear Anywhere Else

The Treme Jazz Band in New Orleans, Louisiana
Music You Won’t Hear Anywhere Else
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Hello, and welcome to As It Is from VOA Learning English!

I’m Christopher Cruise in Washington.

Today on the program we will hear music from one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans, Louisiana..

“They be playin’ in the parks. They be playin’ in the Back Street Culture Museum, and St. Augustine’s Church, and you can also catch them in Congo Square playing New Orleans music.”

Music from a place with a style all its own, today on As It Is…

Brass Bands in New Orleans and on TV

Many people are still talking about the fourth and final season of the HBO television program “Treme.” The show was set in a neighborhood unlike any other. Treme is one of the oldest parts of New Orleans, and a place with a style of music all its own.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. And within the city, many will tell you that jazz began in Treme, in a place called “Congo Square.”

For almost 300 years, African-Americans have been coming to Congo Square to play music and dance. And for over a century, the music they play and dance to has been the music of brass bands. Benny Jones, Sr. is the leader of the Treme Brass Band.

“They be playin’ in the parks. They be playin’ in the Back Street Culture Museum, and St. Augustine’s Church, and you can also catch them in Congo Square playing New Orleans music.”

New Orleans is a city not just of jazz, but of parades -- everything from Mardi Gras parades to funeral parades. And when jazz musicians march in the street it is called “Second Line” music.

Benny Jones says the name “Second Line,” comes from the music’s beginnings in the military.

“The band would play right behind the soldiers -- that’s where the brass band got the name ‘Second Line.’ They were playing marching music. So when they got to the streets, they changed the beat of the music. They put the New Orleans beat in it, puttin’ the street beat on the bass drum and which a snare drum would tie into it and therefore how come it come to be a Second Line brass band.”

Much of the marching that Second Line brass bands do is to burial grounds.

“You can always -- at any given time -- you may see a band leaving a funeral parlor or church doing a New Orleans traditional jazz funeral. If you’re playing for an older person, you’re looking for a strait-out, traditional Jazz funeral: ‘A Closer Walk with Thee,’ ‘In the Sweet By-And-By,’ ‘Precious Lord’ -- that is funeral music. And when you’re playing for younger people, today they ache for the up-tempo music. So they hire a young band and they do a real up-tempo music for their funeral.”
Hurricane Katrina destruction
Hurricane Katrina destruction

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans. The Treme neighborhood was especially hard-hit. Benny Jones and most of his band moved to the western United States after the storm. Today, however, Treme is recovering. And Mr. Jones sees plenty to suggest that the area’s traditions will carry on.

“I played in the Young Men’s Olympic Parade. I’m the leader of a band -- they like traditional music. Right behind me they have another traditional band. In the back, they have another, modern music, now the younger band they play the up-tempo music, like the rebirth music. So everybody’s playing a variety of music on the parade.”

Today, the music continues to change. Young people respect the brass band tradition, while adding modern sounds like reggae and hip-hop. It is a kind of music that keeps marching on.

And that’s our program for today. It was based on a story by reporter Richard Paul.
Next Monday on As It Is we will have another report about American music. We will tell about the growing popularity of mariachi music -- especially in the states along the border with Mexico. And we will tell how some Americans used music to support and then oppose an amendment to the United States Constitution.

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I’m Christopher Cruise.

Thanks for listening!

Please join me next week at this same time for another report on American music, here on As It Is.

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