It’s Mardi Gras and we’re turning to New Orleans, fertile ground for American music. The city’s musical roots reach back to Congo Square where African slaves were allowed to play drums during the slavery era. It became the cradle of jazz in the early twentieth century, and later home to boogie-woogie pianists. The city gave birth to Mahalia Jackson, who took gospel from southern church pews to America’s living rooms. The streets of the Crescent City were once battlegrounds for the percussive chants of the black Mardi Gras Indian tribes, and stomping grounds for rhythm and blues musicians that forged a raucous path for rock and roll.
Brass bands fuse and carry on those traditions today, along with a uniquely regional form of rap known as bounce. Bounce is New Orleans’ latest indigenous music, its beats and chants jumped out of the city’s housing projects in the late 1980s and early 90s and spread through the diaspora of residents scattered after Hurricane Katrina. “Where They At” is a multi-media archive of New Orleans’ bounce sounds and musicians compiled by photographer Aubrey Edwards and by Alison Fensterstock, a New Orleans-based music journalist. We asked Alison what makes bounce uniquely New Orleans, compared to straight up hip-hop.
WARNING! EXPLICIT LYRICS: