POSTED Fri. Nov 4, 2016

Atmosphere

Bayou Bacchanal Begins

Despite all the talk of New Orleans being the “northernmost Caribbean city,” our Caribbean residents here can sometimes feel lonely, set apart from one another. For this reason, 14 years ago, St. Lucia Island native Marilyn LaForce created the Bayou Bacchanal Festival as a meeting point for the New Orleans based Caribbean diaspora.

“If you’ve never seen the Caribbean culture for yourself, you will walk into Armstrong Park for Bayou Bacchanal, and see how we celebrate,” promises LaForce. “It’s an educational experience in our culture and customs. And we are all from different islands, so we all have different ways of doing things. But all of us just love our cultures and the histories that follow those cultures.”

This year’s Bacchanal is particularly timely – in 2016, President Barack Obama proclaimed that Louisiana would participate in Caribbean Heritage Month, which falls in June (the month when many Caribbean Islanders celebrate carnival season). LaForce’s family came to America in 1982 as part of a mass Caribbean migration to Louisiana that started in the 1970s.

“Before I came here I’d never even heard of New Orleans or the name Louisiana,” laughs LaForce. “We moved here for economic reasons. After the refineries was built here many of our men moved here to work. But St. Lucia too is Creole speaking, like a few other islands, because of the French influence, so I found New Orleans a lot like home. The weather, and some of our Caribbean foods, are here.”

To this day, most of New Orleans’ Caribbean nationals are concentrated on the West Bank. LaForce has done her part to spread that culture around the city. “I was invited one year to French Quarter Festival, and enjoyed it, and so started going to festivals around town, and wondering why we didn’t have a festival,” she recalls. “I once walked into a Hispanic market and saw a sign that inspired me, for the Latin American Grocers Association. I thought, if they have that, I can at least start a chamber for my people.”

In 2001 LaForce founded ‘Friends of Culture,’ which still works year-round to link island nations of the Caribbean with New Orleans by providing information on the Caribbean’s diverse cultures, and serving as a point of contact for expats. Friends of Culture led on to LaForce’s own Caribbean carnival: Bayou Bacchanal.

“Until our Bayou Bacchanal there was nothing in the South really representing the Caribbean culture in this fashion,” she says. “We have people now coming from Atlanta, Alabama, Florida, Houston, because Bayou Bacchanal celebrates history, culture, customs, through dancing to soca music, eating food such as curry goat — and of course our big carnival parade.”

Dancer and dance instructor Marissa Joseph got involved with Bayou Bacchanal four years ago. “When I heard about it, I was very excited to have another opportunity to connect with the Caribbean side of our culture, the black part of our culture; that’s very important to our Creole culture,” says Joseph. “I’m originally from New Iberia, so I am a 4-H kid and a descendant of farmers, so I love to connect with people who come from agriculture, and the Caribbean culture is full of stories of agriculture.”

And of course as a dancer, Joseph loves the Caribbean’s soca music. “Soca is this hyper sound of emotion and feeling that generates this happiness,” Joseph says, attempting to describe the genre. “It’s almost a combination of our jazz and New Orleans bounce. It’s the sound of the people, their stories and their happiness when they’re getting ready for their carnival. Soca is the soundtrack for their carnival, like brass is the soundtrack to our second line, our Super Sunday. Everything you want to know about Caribbean culture and life, you get an idea or a feel of it through soca music.”

At this year’s Bayou Bacchanal, Joseph, who has created a fitness program using New Orleans bounce rap, will teach a master class with Trinidad native Keisha Huggins, who created a Caribbean music workout called Fet-Ness. “She gets people healthy and motivated through Carnival music, soca, reggae, dancehall, anything that comes from the Caribbean, in hopes to find wellness in these cultural traditions, in which they take great pride. Then what I will add to her class will be Louisiana Creole movement, and New Orleans bounce dances, all to soca music,” says Joseph.

The festival begins Friday in Gretna with a “White Party,” where attendees are encouraged to wear all white, and to bring and wave their “flags and rags” of various colors, representing the many Caribbean nations. On Saturday morning, at 11am, a Caribbean carnival parade rolls from Harrah’s with the People’s Choice Masquerade Group, Buffalo Soldiers horse riders, the steel pan band Pan Vibrations, and many a DJ, all leading dancers onto Basin Street, and finally into Armstrong Park.

Activities throughout the day should feel familiar to New Orleans residents. “We’ll have masqueraders from the Caribbean, some will be coming from Houston wearing large feather headpieces, two piece type costumes with beaded and sequined costumes,” says LaForce.

The festival is followed by a nighttime Fete Dance featuring DJ Lady Peppertree, the 418 Band from Jacksonville, FL, and DJ Natural Touch from Houston.

“It’s something just to imagine…the family connection people feel to their native land, at Bayou Bacchanal,” says Joseph, who says she is ready to dance. “We have this chance to meet people from Caribbean areas that we’ve never met. Everyone gets to speak in their own patois, wherever they are from, and we can hear the history and culture in the voices and in the Caribbean music that’s played the entire time, all day, and in the beautiful ornate costumes. It’s folk art in sound and motion. But in the end what I love most is that Caribbean people are very big on just being good neighbors. Every Bayou Bacchanal, I smile all day, just being around the people.”

Here’s the line up for Bayou Bacchanal: today (Nov 4), 11pm, The White Party at Cozie’s Sports Grill (724 Franklin St, Gretna), $10 cover. Saturday, Nov 5, Bayou Bacchanal at Armstrong Park (701 N. Rampart St). Parade leaves from Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street at 11am, and there’s an after-party at the Stallings Recreation Center (4300 St Claude Ave) at 9pm, featuring DJ Lady Peppertree, DJ Natural Touch, and the 418 Band (Jacksonville, Fl). After party tickets are $25, or $35 at the door. Image via the Bayou Bacchanal website.

POSTED Dec 27, 2016

Atmosphere

New Orleans & Me's Guide to New Year's Eve

New Orleans & Me's Guide to New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve in New Orleans always delivers heaping portions of food, music and partying, with all of the above exacerbated by a new wrinkle in the New…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 26, 2016

Atmosphere

A New Orleans & Me Guide to Beer in the Crescent City

A New Orleans & Me Guide to Beer in the Crescent City

The beer scene in New Orleans has exponentially expanded since 2010, ballooning from a few beer-specializing bars and one homegrown brewery to a series of brewpubs, microbreweries and…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 23, 2016

Atmosphere

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 22, 2016

Atmosphere

Get Your Christmas Weekend On, New Orleans

Get Your Christmas Weekend On, New Orleans

This weekend in New Orleans It’s Christmas. Do whatcha wanna. Weekend NOLA ChristmasFest is open daily through the 30th. Check out the gingerbread replica of St. Louis Cathedral…....
CONTINUE

Written by CATE ROOT
PAGE

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

    X

    Thanks.

    was added to your favorites.

    VIEW YOUR PROFILE

     


    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook