Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let Them Play!

As I'm still not quite over my post-New-Orleans euphoric haze, I wanted to post one more thing about that city and its blessed horns before returning to more serious material on this blog. This time, however, the news is not good...

One of the most fantastic and unique things about New Orleans is its street musicians. A lot of American cities (though not enough) have street performers, but most of the musicians are solo artists. What's great about New Orleans is that it has entire brass bands who play on street corners (and in the actual streets) throughout the French Quarter and on its edges. So, it's nothing short of an absolute tragedy that, in the last week, the New Orleans Police Department has decided to begin enforcing a long-ignored noise ordinance (still on the books because of Louisiana's bizarre system of civil law influenced by the Napoleonic Code) in a bid to run street musicians off as early as 8pm. The NOPD reportedly has been "urging" street musicians, including bands like the To Be Continued Brass Band, to sign a statement acknowledging the noise ordinance. TBC Band, which has played on the corner of Bourbon and Canal, undisturbed, for at least the last 8 or 9 years, has refused to sign the statement and is at the center of a campaign (including a Facebook group) protesting the new action.

Let me just state the obvious here: New Orleans has a lot of things to worry about-- poverty, crime, an as-yet-unreturned post-Katrina diaspora, not to mention the dire threat to its economic and environmental recovery caused by the recent BP oil spill-- so it's just ridiculous that the NOPD (at the behest of its new superintendent, Ronal Serpas) has decided that street musicians are suddenly something to worry about. If anything, street musicians are one of the BEST things about New Orleans, standing as testament to the unlikely resilience and inexplicable vitality of that city's enduring culture. Silencing the sound of brass and snare and the group-calls of second lines on the streets of New Orleans, late into the night, is tantamount to throwing in the towel on the fight to preserve one of our country's greatest cultural crucibles.

Let. Them. Play.


DOCTOR J said...

Addendum: The photo at the beginning of this post is not the TBC Brass Band, but the Young Fellaz Brass Band, who play on Frenchmen Street (and also sometimes in Jackson Square). We stood and watched them play on the corner 2 nights last weekend and they are amazing.

e. said...

i'm going to do my part by standing in the secondline and mooning any cop i see.