amp fiddler, leron thomas, nia andrews & more rocked new orleans in concert series
By Sound Check
May 15, 2017
As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is a city that has had the privilege of influencing music of all genres in some way. With deep rooted African, French, Spanish and Caribbean cultural footprints, it is arguably the most culturally rich city in the United States.
Since 1970, the city has hosted its New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (affectionately known as “Jazz Fest”) which has now turned into the city’s most attended festival, attracting over 400,000 visitors from across the world each year.
For the second straight year, Ace Hotel New Orleans hosted its Six of Saturns series which complements the festival’s performances and pays homage to the city’s past and present. This year’s series brought together a collection of artists, many of whom had never performed in New Orleans before. Despite this, nearly all of them referenced family ties to the city which affirms the city’s substantial impact on American culture – particularly in regards to music.
By Nic Aziz*, AFROPUNK Contributor
Formerly a member of George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic groups, Amp Fiddler has had the privilege of performing across the world. He’s particularly renowned in hip-hop history as he is credited with introducing hip-hop legend J Dilla to the Akai MPC and A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip.
He was quite excited about the opportunity to perform in a city that has had so much influence on today’s music.
“As the birthplace of a lot of black music, it will always attract artists,” he said. “The music is sacred to people’s ear [in New Orleans] the way it is in Detroit.”
This was also Fiddler’s first performance in New Orleans since the mid-1990s with Parliament and Funkadelic, and he admitted that he felt more freedom returning as a solo artist because it gave him the opportunity to experiment musically and truly experience the city.
“I need to spend more time there to learn more about the history of New Orleans and what makes it so amazing for musicians,” he added.
Deriving influence from Alice Coltrane and possessing a voice that exudes warmth and spirituality, performing in New Orleans for the first time was a cathartic experience for Jimetta Rose.
“I think that my love for the horns, brass instruments is anchored in the Mississippi-New Orleans sound,” she said. “I love horns [and] I feel like my voice is a horn. In that way, I feel like New Orleans is a part of me.”
Having family from New Orleans, Rose expressed an instant connection to the city and an admiration for its respect for individuality.
“If you come to New Orleans and you’re yourself, people will not only encourage you, but embrace you,” she said. “New Orleans has a freedom that you don’t feel in the South.”
While she has had the opportunity to visit New Orleans before, this was Los Angeles native Nia Andrew’s first performance in the city. The openness and acceptance from the city’s residents struck her the most. “I had so many fun conversations with strangers,” she said. “People are just really open and warm [and] this is unusual being born and raised in L.A.”
Andrews also expressed that she cannot wait to return and experience more of the city.
“There’s a soulfulness in New Orleans that I really relish,” she said. “To be able to share music in a place like that was very nourishing.”
Mark de Clive Lowe
As a producer and composer whose sound is heavily rooted in Jazz, Mark de Clive Lowe stated that many of his friends were shocked when they found out he had never been to New Orleans.
“New Orleans strikes me as a city that is totally unique,” he said. “It has its own flavor the whole way. And that’s something that’s so special in this day and age – to see somewhere that is really holding on to its roots.”
Being born in New Zealand and raised bi-culturally by his Japanese mother and his New Zealender father, de Clive Lowe was also very intrigued by New Orleans’ multicultural imprints.
“It’s a story that’s very rich [and] it creates a totally unique situation,” he said. “For me, growing up multiculturally and living in different parts of the world makes me the person that I am today and makes me able to think uniquely. New Orleans as a city definitely has that characteristic [which] you can see in the architecture, the food flavors, the people and the music.”
Maurice MoBetta Brown
Maurice MoBetta Brown is a Grammy award winning trumpeter and producer who had the opportunity to live in New Orleans from 2000 to 2005. After being forced to move to New York City following Hurricane Katrina, he relishes in any opportunity he has to return to New Orleans to perform.
“Coming back to New Orleans for me is always a homecoming,” he said. “This city is electrifying…the energy [and] the people – it reeks of culture.”
He also credits New Orleans and its culture with helping him find and hone his artistry.
“When you get into this lane of wanting to find out who you are as an artist, and you come around so many things around you reeking of culture, you just blossom,” he said. “New Orleans opened a lot of doors for me and let me know it was ok to just be yourself. That’s one thing I think this city embraces a lot – individuality.”
As a genre-bending trumpeter whose sound sits at the intersection of jazz, funk and rock, performing in a city with so many cultural influences for the first time was a resonating and eye-opening experience for Leron Thomas. The Houston native stated that New Orleans’ felt quite familial.
“The environment out here is so social,” he said. “People are very comfortable with each other [and] not afraid when you put some new art on them. The audience made me feel so at home.”
After spending years in Bilal’s band, he has had the opportunity to travel the world and experience many different cities – but recognized a very unique music culture in New Orleans that he thinks puts the city in a prime position to lead the next wave of music.
“To watch the sit-in culture here – how artists come in and sit on each other’s sets – was so special,” he said. “In New York, you don’t get that – you [instead] get a lot of elitism.”
“The brother hood out here is serious,” he added. “That means this is going to be a breeding ground for what’s next.”
Photos by Jeremy Tauriac
*Nic Aziz is a native New Orleanian writer and curator. He is also manager of The Haitian Cultural Legacy Collection (www.haitianculturallegacy.com). You can read more of his work at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/nicolasbaziz-733 and follow him on social media at @NicoBrierre (Twitter) and @NicoElGanso (Instagram).
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