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This is the best of our knowledge I'm Bob Barrett nor guest today is Jason berry author of the book city of a million dreams a history of New Orleans that year three hundred one of the big traditions in the city is carnival season especially Mardi Gras I asked how this tradition involved are carnival was European tradition very popular and France Spain and Italy that was transplanted to New Orleans with the various waves of Europeans who came here I refer in the book to the map of the world neighborhoods because many these neighborhoods help so many different peoples that they were almost like miniature versions of the world itself and of course the African presence has been profound since the very beginning of the colony our the city has to say what you find in carnival is a tradition that grows far beyond what people originally thought it would be Darris Dr C. assumed that carnival was there for the balls and fancy dress gatherings and lavish food and the fine music that they enjoyed but rather quickly along it also became a celebration of the streets and you know by the early twentieth century it was such a growing part of the city stretching over several weeks in the middle of the winter they really turned into an industry and now it pumps a billion dollars into the economy every year or so it's a kind of stage for a larger constellation of the identity pageants I mean the old line cruise serve aristocracy parade with businessmen and key as kings and you know young women debutantes is queens whereas the crew Zulu which began as a black satire of the white royalty is now a lavish parade and there also was sort of political power house in town and you get one sense of how the city has changed after very hard it's racially as many cities in the south have undergone today the king of Mardi Gras racks prominent businessman every year goes down to the Mississippi doc and welcomes the barge that brings the king of who to bet begin his reign on Lundy grub today before Mardi Gras all this is televised the mayor reads a proclamation that essentially giving the city over to rex rex in turn is lavishing his breeding of Zulu quite a symbol of inter racial harmony and while that might not seem all that important to some people when you think of how divided and splintered the country is right now over racial issues I think public pageants like this which presented idea of hope have an important role the city has had a very colorful let's say racial history starting with I guess I guess you would have to go back to the the the funeral of Jefferson Davis was held there yeah Jefferson Davis was a massive funeral you know and and eighteen ninety two really what's interesting about these funerals is how they changed and how that changes reflected the way the city was changing I would even go back farther to eighteen sixty three in the middle of the civil war New Orleans fell early eighteen sixty two admiral Farragut came up the river and captured the city and for several years it was quite well governed befriended he achy generals most of the historians you know quicker in that regard there was a black an African American troop called the Louisiana native guard who fought against the south one of their leaders Andre cryo was a rather courageous captain who was killed at the battle of port Hudson near baton Rouge eighteen sixty three and his body lay on that field for almost six weeks after his death his spirit appeared in a seat series of seances held by these creel's in town where he speaks to them and treats them to fight for freedom it's it's really an amazing turn of events by the time his remains such as they work came back the funeral for cardio was one of the largest the city to that point had ever seen and it was the first for an African American with marching bands but some thirty seven benevolent societies burial societies and so it was a signal to the white creoles and to the other ethnic white that the African Americans were now a culture on the rise and in the years after the war the civil war became re branded as the lost because how did that affect the city's history profoundly so the lost cause was a basically a mythology that spread across the south it was a determined effort by former Confederate officers and soldiers to cast the war as this noble undertaking not about slavery but over economic differences and putting up the statues to Confederate soldiers was a way of immortalizing the nobility of this war at and and the way it was taught in school books the way in which they regained power was through vigilante tactics I wouldn't even use the word justice lynching became one of the main tools in securing white supremacy across the south it has all of this was happening in the late eighteen eighties forty thousand black folk so over the twenty year period culminating in nineteen hundred moved in to New Orleans and brought with them these traditions of rural church worship with jubilee dancing with ecstatic rituals and is that music along with the blues current was absorbed by brass bands the black brass bands of the music change their old spinal column you might say of military marches for funerals began to loosen and show more improvisation an adaptation of the funerals reflected that by the early nineteen hundreds there were huge gatherings of people in the street for these black funerals and the police at that point were very reluctant to arrest people because these were religious processions even though the press pants were blowing probing pretty boy it like so you find rituals like that threading through the annals of the town and to me very hold a mirror there like caravanserai I have about a given moment in time well I didn't write this question and I'm not sure who did but I'm gonna ask it anyway did jazz invent New Orleans or did in Orleans invent jazz all mine that's one of the hardest questions of ever been enhanced well I I would put it this way chance arose here because of the unique social composition of the city the map of the world neighborhoods that were here where this africaine ET African American idiom of the poly rhythms of yester year melding with European melody and instrumentation because the birth of jazz it is a a an African American idiom but no sooner had that happened then there were Jews and Italians and Irish and German musicians in this city that was teeming with brass band and so there was this rich musical exchange that began which I don't know if it's arguable whether something like that could have happened in in a New York or Chicago or other large cities but I think the main ingredient that distinguish did here was the role of the creoles the black creoles many of whom were music professors and engaged the darker African Americans who did not know how to play but played improvisational Lee by year and it's that coming together of the improvisational music and the formally trained sounds of clarinetists and trumpeters and even you know pianist who feel one pattern and take it and absorbed into another and I think it happened here because of the society well there's no way we can end this without talking about could Trina ten years after Katrina Leung more but almost fifteen years after Katrina now right how much has this re booted this city well it's important to remember that eighty percent of the city was under water and an average level of four feet I have many friends who lost their homes and belongings my wife and I were quite fortunate our house did not flood but one of my close friends Michael white the clarinetist and composer lost everything five thousand CD's four thousand books all of his sheet music and I did an entire chapter on him because to me he represents a sort of New Orleans every man in what he had to do to rebuild not just his career but his life and and he managed to prevail he didn't quite beautifully he's done on a number of CD since then so it was a long aching struggle we got a real boost when lander was elected mayor in two thousand ten he managed to access a great deal of federal money for rebuilding the infrastructure but the town came back because the people were determined to return whether their houses were destroyed or not and re claim their piece of the world many musicians who suffered terrible losses nevertheless managed to come back and rebuild and I think it's really a testimony to the resilience of the people that the city today is quite robust we are probably eighty thousand fewer people than we were before the storm it's about I guess three hundred eighty thousand population now that said it's becoming a city the young subtracting young people to the digital economy to the film industry the restaurants the art scene so you know New Orleans is a comeback story for which America can be proud can you imagine what the city might look like today had there not been Katrina well yeah I I can easily imagine it I think the lower ninth ward would still be a large populous neighborhood with many folks living in houses that had been handed down over three or four generations where the mortgage was paid but they didn't carry insurance sadly and that's why so many people couldn't come back and rebuild you know whether New Orleans would have the reputation it does today is an international place had the world not watched in horror hi I don't know I would be loath to say that Katrina was a good thing for the city but what it did do is elevate the importance of the city historically in the world site and as we slowly rebuilt more and more people became interested in coming here I was never there before Katrina and died I've seen it in the past three years now I've gone maybe over half a dozen times I just I I I I could see why people love this city and would never want to leave well I grew up here I went off I came back and I've been here now back you might say for for quite a long time and I can't imagine really living any place else Paris would be very nice but New Orleans is a rare place and it is a culture that is both American in its lines of custom and habit and yet it stands outside of the American mainstream with its Latin and and carribean folkways and cultural stream so it really is a remarkable place again the name of Jason berry's wonderful book is city of a million dreams a history of New Orleans at here three hundred.

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