“I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, all music came from New Orleans.”
Those words adorn the roofline of Kermit Ruffins’ Mother in Law Lounge in New Orleans’ famed Treme neighborhood. The quotation attributed to Ernie K-Doe, the R&B singer best known for his 1961 hit “Mother–in-Law” and original proprietor of the Mother in Law Lounge on N. Claiborne Avenue which closed down after suffering severe damage during Hurricane Katrina. There is a certain truth to the phrase and it is evident throughout the city, if you know where to look for it.
New Orleans has a history steeped in pain and suffering for many of its residents, but it is the resilience and spirit of the city that continues to inspire me.
Maybe it’s the water.
The Mississippi is an ever-present force shaping the landscape and the history of New Orleans. Surrounded by water on all sides with The River, The Gulf and The Lake creating isolation and providing opportunity at the same time. The influences are myriad and the evolution is ongoing. Moving forward at a steady pace New Orleans is a living embodiment of a rich cultural past.
History tells us that Congo Square was the only place in the United States where slaves could gather and play music. The rhythms that came from Congo Square are still present in the second lines of today. Jazz was born in New Orleans and the aforementioned river carried the music and the musicians north to Kansas City and Chicago.
This past Sunday in New Orleans was Super Sunday. A day when the Mardi Gras Indians emerge from all corners of the city to display their custom made, hand sewn suits and honor the traditions of the past. The Mardi Gras Indians pay respect to the Native Americans for their assistance during the time of slavery. It was often the local Indians who accepted escaping slaves into their society and that support has never been forgotten. The family units and neighborhood krewes span generations and it is this lineage that is so fascinating to see on display in the streets and on stages throughout the city of New Orleans.
In my photo essay of Super Sunday I looked at the preparation and the familial ties which are a symbol of this extraordinary event.