Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Report on New Atlantis panel at SXSW

Had a great SXSW experience checking out lots of new music, the great Joe King Carrasco reunited with his original group, Dr. John, a terrific panel on New Atlantis and a finale of Davis Rogan burning it up at Uncle Billy's. Here's a well reported account of the panel by John T. Davis:

SXSW panel: New Atlantis—New Orleans Music Rebuilds

By John T. Davis | Saturday, March 17, 2012, 01:57 PM

New Atlantis—New Orleans Music Rebuilds


12:30 p.m. Saturday

Community and music are inextricably bound in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed neighborhoods, it sundered a historical tradition of organically-created music that arose from the streets and kindred spirits. Now, New Orleans musicans are rebuilding that community, one street and one band at a time.

Moderator—John Swenson/Journalist and Author

Davis Rogan/Songwriter and Actor

Don B/Musician & Actor

Chris Magee/Artist and Producer

Alison Fensterstock/Journalist

Supa Dezzy/Producer

Two threads bound together the panelists on “New Atlantis—New Orleans Rebuilds.” The first is the HBO series, Treme, which recounts the struggle of a community to rebuild and reconnect in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Several of the panelists also serve as advisors, crew or music coordinators on the program. The second link is Dave Bartholomew, the legendary songwriter and producer of New Orleans artists like Fats Domino, Shirley & Lee and Lloyd Price.

Bartholomew’s son, Don B, as well as his grandsons, Chris Magee and Supa Dezzy were all on the panel. Moderator John Swenson wrote the book New Atlantis: Musicians Battle For the Survival of New Orleans.

“When I returned there in 2005, the city was inundated. I became obsessed with finding everybody’s story. It wasn’t clear that any of the music was going to happen again; Everybody was gone. Every time a club would reopen and people would play music, it was like magic.”

Hip-hop and its New Orleans derivative, bounce, as several artists pointed out, is filling same unifying function as earlier organic musical forms like Second Line, brass bands and the Mardi Gras Indians.

“New Orleans is not just the birthplace of jazz,” said Davis Rogan, who is the inspiration for “Davis McAlary,” the character Steve Zahn plays on Treme. “It’s also got vibrant hip-hop, brass band and rock scenes…There’s a perception among some that the Neville Brothers and Rebirth Brass Band are ‘real’ New Orleans music, but a rapper like Juvenile isn’t.”

That perception is changing, as hip-hop artists and producers are embracing older influences and tapping into the same neighborhood interconnections as musicians before them.

“I always called (the older artists) the ‘Jazzfest Canon’,” said journalist Alison Fensterstock. “But since the storm, there’s been a lot more amalgamating.”

“Bounce seems to be the version of New Orleans hip-hop that’s most connected to vernacular street music—the Second Line, the Mardi Gras Indians, the brass bands…what you’d hear at a party or walking down the street. It demands mutual participation.”

“The Second Line comes to us” said hip-hop producer Don B. “It rolls right through our neighborhood, we just stand outside the door and watch thousands of people march by.”

“It’s the bearers of the culture, the brass bands, the Indians, and hip-hop musicians that made it possible for music in New Orleans to come back,” said Davis. “We made so sure that 110% of the music came back, but we still only have 70% of the audience—everybody is still so busy trying to rebuild their lives.”

“New Orleans musicians said they were taken good care of in Austin, Houston, Atlanta, but even though well cared for, they couldn’t do what they did in NOLA because the music is specific to the community there,” said Swenson. “That’s what these musicians are trying to reestablish there, and it’s creating some new alliances among people who hadn’t worked together before the flood.”

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