Feet don't fail me now: brass bands in post-Katrina New Orleans
The purpose of this interdisciplinary study is to examine brass bands in post-Katrina New Orleans. Told primarily in the words of the musicians themselves, this study analyzes the intersection of the city's recovery efforts and the complex web of formal and informal sociocultural relationships that exist in the brass band community. The perspectives of these musicians, who were active New Orleans brass band musicians before and after the storm, help us better understand the resurgence and popularity of brass bands in post-Katrina New Orleans by highlighting the ways in which brass bands, as an informal cultural institution, use, experience, and depend on the vitality of public life and the social construction of public space as mechanisms that are critical for their cultural continuity. Using a musician-researcher perspective into the history, culture and people that make up contemporary brass band music in post-Katrina New Orleans, this study reveals new insights that explain the resurgence of brass bands and their performative cultural continuity. It reveals that the everyday lived experiences of the musicians are entrenched in the deep-rooted attachment and dependency of making sense of place and space--New Orleans--through music. Although tourists and outsider scholars see their cultural practices as mere entertainment, their position as community-based cultural practitioners is the sum total of the lived-experiences of real people, in real time, and rooted in a real place where living culture is surviving in spite of myriad struggles in a city still recovering. This study examines the impact of post-disaster recovery and issues such as city policies, gentrification, cultural appropriation, cultural commodification through image-making and popular culture, the appropriation of public space, and education reform efforts are impacting brass bands performative cultural continuity and potentially jeopardizing their longevity as a community-based cultural practice. Hence, if these important cultural practices are restricted, than we not only lose the core relevancy of their sociocultural importance, but we also face the potential loss of an informal cultural institution that has been vital for public life in New Orleans for more than 180 years.