About one month ago, I wrote about Red Baraat after happening past a place on Frenchmen Street that was featuring the band that night. I lamented at letting the chance slip by to see them, but luckily they made it back to New Orleans for the 6th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival in Louis Armstrong Park. This free festival spans two days and is one of several music festivals put on by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. The name of this festival originates from the time when slaves and free people of color would meet for celebrating and dancing in the Congo Square. Jazz, blues, and gospel music found their origins at these festivals, as did the New Orleanian tradition of the second line.
This year’s Congo Square festival featured multiple musical artists and included a “Class Got Brass” competition among high school brass bands. The winning school received a $10 thousand dollar prize! The Mardi Gras Indians also made an appearance, dressed in their colorful and elaborate feathery costumes. The final act of the festival on Sunday was Brookyln-based Red Baraat, who successfully got the crowd raising their arms and bouncing their shoulders in the typical bhangra dance fashion. A combination of bhangra, brass, and funk, their music makes it impossible to stand still. I especially loved the main drummer’s 1970s style clothing and mustache that reminded me of the “heroes” of old Indian movies! A good time was had by all, and the best part is that this festival was free! This was definitely another experience that makes me know I will always love and miss New Orleans.
Jazz Fest, another festival of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, also started out in Congo Square before its popularity and size pushed it to occupy the Fair Grounds race track. The festival is known for its mouth-watering food and lengthy music lineup spanning a total of seven days. I was able to attend last year and tasted the most amazing crawfish Monica I have ever had! Hopefully I can find a day off during ICU this year to attend; if not, we’ll have to come back another year!