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BOMB Magazine — Ned Sublette by Garnette Cadogan
"Musician turned musicologist Ned Sublette unravels the histories and sounds that shaped New Orleans, our most “American” city."



"GC You end the book with the Mardi Gras Indians. They’re not merely your coda—they’re an index. They embody New Orleans’s uniqueness, and stand as a powerful and poignant metaphor of persistence—in the face of constant battering and challenges from without and frustrations from within.

NS They embody black New Orleans’s insistence on connecting with its past—in a society that did everything possible to erase the people and their history. To the extent of giving them one-way tickets out of town to forty-some different states in 2005.

GC And they [the Mardi Gras Indians] make this connection largely through their music, which has long functioned as a shield against erasure.

NS Music in New Orleans is a way of resisting one’s own erasure. Mardi Gras Indians were out there in their suits representing in 2006, at the first Mardi Gras after the flood, representing not only for their own neighborhood, but for the entire city.

GC In the book that you’re working on now, The Year Before The Flood — which, by the way, is not about the flood but about the rich cultural traditions of modern New Orleans — you make a similar claim about the city’s hip hop artists.

NS There are remarkable correspondences. There’s a number by the Hot Boys, from their album Guerrilla Warfare, with B.G. chanting: “Dem boys at war / I said dem boys at war / I said dem niggaz from Uptown / dem boyz at war.” The Mardi Gras Indians don’t use the N-word, but apart from that, it could practically be an Indian song. Black art is constantly transforming, but the continuity is there. The Mardi Gras Indians—like the Abakuá of Cuba, like hip hop—are very much a manhood cult. Expensive new suits, beefing over territory—although what the Mardi Gras Indians do is a highly ritualized theater of beefing that emphasizes diplomacy. When you go see a Mardi Gras Indian practice, and they practice challenging and battling, despite the theatrical aspect, they get so into it that you might wonder if they’re gonna take it outside and settle it. There’s the cultivation of a violent aura to chase away those who might otherwise try to take it over. Despite the occasional white megastar, hip hop in the main has remained pretty much impervious to takeover by white artists. It has many layers of encryption and elaborate security systems that make it hard to copy.

GC It’s also interesting to note the commonalities between New Orleans hip hop musicians and those within the city’s venerable brass band jazz tradition, not to mention the Mardi Gras Indians—these are all intensely local musical traditions.

NS It’s intensely local, and it’s the same community. Soulja Slim’s mom was in the Lady Buck Jumpers, and his stepfather was leader of Rebirth. Everybody’s got a relative who’s in a Social Aid and Pleasure Club, or is a Mardi Gras Indian or something. Until they boarded up the projects and tore them down this year, they were all living in the same projects. I went on the Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club second line this spring, one of the best second lines I’ve ever been on. How’s this for a recapitulation of New Orleans history? It began in front of Congo Square and ended at the rubble of the newly demolished Magnolia Projects.

GC Geographically connecting the reputed fountainhead of jazz with…

NS The fountainhead of R&B! Because right by the Magnolia Projects was the Dew Drop Inn, the great black showplace of New Orleans in the ‘40s and ‘50s, crucial to the formation of rhythm and blues."
2008  neworleans  music  history  nedsublette  garnettecadogan  havana  us  reggae  cuba  funk  slavery  south  race  religion  haiti  nola 
july 2016 by robertogreco

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