New Orleans Music After Katrina

SXSW panels

New Orleans Music After Katrina

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 18

Will the horrors of Katrina and its aftermath be the death knell of music in New Orleans? Not according to a panel of folks who should know. Moderator and sometimes New Orleans resident Harry Shearer (Le Show, The Simpsons) led a discussion between Jan Ramsey (Publisher, OffBeat), Scott Aiges (Director, Louisiana Music Export Office), Keith Spera (music writer, The Times-Picayune), and musicians Cyril Neville and Allen Toussaint. Spera told one storm story: "We came upon a policeman leaving Wal-Mart with a stack of DVDs, and we knew the rules had changed." Current Austin resident Neville talked about his famous musical family and how "most lost everything, and now we're scattered across the country." Ramsey declared, "Music is the lifeblood of New Orleans culture," but now "there's a New Orleans musical diaspora." It ain't news for often-exploited Crescent City sound makers, but this disaster pulled into full relief the fact that "life for average New Orleans musicians is hell," according to Neville. One concern is that as Big Easy melodians relocate and are respected in places like Austin, they might not move back. Still, folks generally agreed with Toussaint's saintly wisdom, "New Orleans music will always be fine." In spite of all that's happened since Katrina, Cyril Neville reminded everyone, "The new hurricane season starts June 1."

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