Soul of the South: Louisiana Keeps Playing 

As the birthplace of jazz and Cajun music, New Orleans and Louisiana have played an important part in shaping the American landscape. Through trials and tribulations, the music keeps playing.
James T. Black

Hurricane Katrina destroyed property and disrupted lives when it slammed into Louisiana--but it couldn't stop the music.

It didn't take long for New Orleans to get back in the groove. Old favorites such as Tipitina's, Preservation Hall, and Snug Harbor reopened just a few months after the hurricane. In addition to the old guards, new venues have sprouted up to help keep the music going.

Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins showed support for his hometown by recently opening Ray's Boom Boom Room on Frenchman Street. Kermit's club joins two other popular places, The Spotted Cat and the Apple Barrel, in helping to revitalize the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Downtown, Chickie Wah Wah Club offers everything from folk to funk at its location on Canal Street.

In the Uptown neighborhood, the "Rebirth on Tuesday," a Maple Leaf Bar tradition, takes on a new meaning. The Rebirth Brass Band has appeared at the Maple Leaf on Tuesday nights for nearly 16 years, and the weekly show now brings together neighborhood residents, college students, and out-of-town visitors to celebrate the city's rebuilding.

A Cajun Country Chorus
West of the Big Easy, the area known as Acadiana welcomed hundreds of displaced New Orleans residents with open arms--and plenty of music--after the hurricane struck. Home to the state's Cajun culture, towns such as Lafayette, Breaux Bridge, and Eunice make friends out of strangers with their food and fiddles.

The heart and soul of Acadiana, Lafayette offers a plethora of places for dancing and dining. Locals gather at Prejean's for a breakfast of crawfish and andouille sausage and then come back at night to enjoy live Cajun music. Guests at the Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse can dance the night away--and spend the night at the comfortable hostel.

Live music also fills the air at Mulate's in Breaux Bridge. The family-friendly restaurant fries up some of the best shrimp and catfish in Louisiana and serves up some of the best Cajun music in the world.

Bayous give way to cotton fields just north of Lafayette, but the music still carries a Cajun beat. East of Eunice, the Savoy Music Center preserves and promotes the traditional tunes. Marc Savoy opened the center to sell his handmade accordions in 1966. He and his wife, Ann, share a love of South Louisiana culture that has drawn people from all over the world to browse among Marc's accordions or sit in on the music center's Saturday morning jam sessions.

Cajun music is also in (and on) the air every Saturday night during the Rendezvous des Cajun show. Broadcast from the historic Liberty Theater in Eunice, the live radio and television program features musicians, bands, comics, and storytellers. Many of the show's Cajun stars perform in their native French. But once the music starts, it's in a language anybody can understand.

 


Big Easy Listening

New Orleans

  • Tipitina's Uptown: 501 Napoleon Avenue;www.tipitinas.com or (504) 895-8477.
  •  Preservation Hall: 726 St. Peter Street;www.preservationhall.com or (504) 522-2841.
  •  Snug Harbor: 626 Frenchmen Street;www.snugjazz.com or (504) 949-0696.
  •  Chickie Wah Wah Club:2828 Canal Street;www.chickiewahwah.com or (504) 304-4714.
  •  Ray's Boom Boom Room:508 Frenchmen Street; (504) 234-7833.
  • The Spotted Cat: 623 Frenchmen Street;www.thespottedcat.com or (504) 943-3887.
  • Apple Barrel: 609 Frenchman Street; (504) 949-9399.
  • Maple Leaf Bar: 8316 Oak Street; (504) 866-9359.

 

Breaux Bridge

  • Mulate's: 325 Mills Avenue; 1-800-422-2586.


Lafayette


Eunice 

  • Savoy Music Center: 4413 U.S. 190 East;www.savoymusiccenter.comor (337) 457-9563.
  • Liberty Theater: 200 Park Avenue; www.eunice-la.com. The Rendezvous Des Cajun show broadcasts live 6-7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

 

"Soul of the South" is from the April 2007 issue of Southern Living.