New Orleans is a city that celebrates all of its diverse cultures and traditions. The Crescent City is home to an eclectic blend of African, Native American, French, and Caribbean influences and its festivals showcase this diversity.
Several festivals in the city offer a unique glimpse into its history and culture while also offering visitors a great time. From the annual LUNA Fete (the nation’s longest-running projection mapping festival) to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, there are plenty of opportunities to experience all that this fascinating and unique city has to offer.
One of the most famous and beloved of New Orleans’s festivals is Jazz Fest, an event that combines music and food. It’s a two-week long festival that takes place every year in April and May.
The Jazz Fest has become an institution in NOLA, bringing together a wide variety of musicians and bands from around the world. The festival is also known for its high attendance, attracting an estimated 100,000 people on its peak days.
Though Jazz Fest has evolved into more than just a musical celebration of the Crescent City, the original intent of its founders George Wein and Allan Jaffe is still at the forefront of the festival’s mission. The co-founders remained committed to keeping the festival inclusive, even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As the city began to recover from the damage, Jazz Fest’s emphasis on racial and cultural inclusion was reinforced. It was a reminder of the city’s history as a haven for displaced Acadians from Canada, Indigenous people and escaped African-Americans who sought a better life after slavery ended in the early 1800s.
It’s been over 40 years since the festival first took place, and it has grown to become one of the biggest annual events in the city. It’s not uncommon for the festival to have over 7,000 musicians on its 14 stages at any given time.
In the recent past, Jazz Fest has featured artists like Stevie Nicks, The Who, Ceelo Green, Nelly, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But it’s also been a time of new talent, with many young musicians taking the stage.
The film, directed by Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern, does a good job of illustrating the blending of music and culture that has made Jazz Fest a success. It shows the diversity of the music at the festival, recognizing that this rich and deep music is an important part of New Orleans’s story.
There’s a lot of good, well-researched footage of the music that makes the movie worth seeing. The interviews are informative, particularly when it comes to the evolution of the festival’s lineup and its commitment to preserving and promoting the rich musical heritage of New Orleans.
Its focus on the history of the festival, and the racial diversity that has been a key to its success, is another reason to watch this documentary. The doc does a great job of showing how Jazz Fest has expanded beyond its origins as a celebration of Louisiana’s culture to become a global brand that brings in performers from across the globe.