Music — Food for the Soul
If food is the sustenance that feeds our bodies, then music is the food for our soul.
I work best with music in the background. The selection dependent on my mood, my task, my day. From classical to blues, the selection varies. Sometimes random within a genre, like Pandora making a genomic connection between my likes and the key words that link melody, artist and arrangement. The lilt of the high notes and the steady base that defines a rhythm that snakes it’s way into my heart. Artistry defined by the skill of the musician and their interpretation of the great songbook of life. Music is integral to being.
In New Orleans, music is the soul of the city. Whether street musicians or legendary performers celebrating the many flavors of jazz, blues, or zydeco. The city resonates with a beat that changes. Block by block.
It is hard to believe that it has been nine years since Katrina. Yet, this city who has suffered so much is still in the throws of rebuilding. Each block of the French Quarter and beyond show the scars of that disaster and somehow it has found the strength and belief to soldier on. Holding on to legacy and history with a spirit that craves a new vision. Red brick dust wafts and buildings are reinforced, gutted and made anew. Visitors side step the construction zones in search of the booze, beads and beignets. Oblivious to the struggle to rebuild and survive that lies behind the heartfelt continuation of the lyrical strains that echo the pulse of the city.
And it continues on in the depth of winter, wind chill and grey skies. The long nights, passing on the legacy of the city and it’s soul, even when it seems no one is listening.
Street Musicians on Royal Street
And yet, in certain spaces there is reverence and even appreciation. Such was a Thursday night at the Odgen Museum of Southern Art and an after hours event featuring Chris Thomas King. You may remember him from the movie O’ Brother Where Art Thou, but he is so much more than the character Tommy. A composer, song writer, actor and holder of the legacy that is the music of Southern Louisiana. In the echos of the Museum Atrium, listeners were held in thrall of his masterful guitar and silky vocals. A man who grew up in the juke joints of Baton Rouge and the joy of Saturday nights, who bridges the old and the new with pride and humility.
With a wry smile he clarifies his definition of the Blues. In low tones and unmistakable intonation of the area he reminds us that the phrase is from “Old French,” you know, the Blue Laws, moral codes that frowned on certain activities that weren’t circumspect with Puritan ethics. Blues, says he were not created from melancholy, but the joy of Saturday Night. This is the reality of his experience growing up in Tabby Thomas’ juke joint and witnessing the everyday miracle of Blue’s heyday. Watch for a upcoming memoir of his times and music.
If you find yourself wandering in the Quarter on Bourbon Street be sure to stop and listen to the music at the New Orleans Legends of Music Park. Even on a cold winter’s night the music is soulful and sincere. When the crowds of Mardi Gras descend you may not find a table, but in the brisk chill that is early February the band plays on. And it plays for you.
If you get the chance to visit this wonderful city, I hope you pause and listen to the heartbeat of it’s soul.