Music in New Orleans is a daily practice. It constructs this city as a fantasy to be indulged, a commodity to be bought and sold and forum for cultural exchange and community building. Thousands of artists survive here by playing live, day and night. One local music bizzer told me that many don’t even like to go on tour, because they can make more money staying within the confines of a few city blocks. No other city in America is like that, I think, not even New York.
And the dream of digging in starts young. The writer Alison Fensterstock, who’s written extensively about NOLA hip-hop as well as rootsier musics, told me that the high school kids she’s met think it’s as cool to be in a brass band as a hip hop crew. The roving young adventurers who follow the neo-hobo circuit from Portland to Minneapolis and down the Mississippi come for a few months to busk on the streets, absorbing the flavor as well as the lore of classic blues and jazz; many end up staying, turning into history’s apprentices. They join veteran street performers who’ve claimed favorite corners for years, with multiple recordings on offer next to their tip jars. American bohemia is about reinventing tradition, exploring lost or hidden pasts as a way of forming new families and becoming individual. It’s self-making through cultural pastiche. New Orleans, with so much rich stuff in its many lineage, is an ideal place for bohemias to grow.
— Ann Powers is spending June in NOLA, writing about music in one of America’s most unique and enchanting cities. This quote is from a blog post from NPR.org’s The Record. Can’t wait to see what else she has to say about her time down there as the month goes on.