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All Trad Jazz at Old Algiers RiverFest This Weekend

Take the ferry from downtown New Orleans to Algiers Point (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Celebrate and explore Old Algiers in this growing festival, now in its sixth year, dedicated to preserving the traditional jazz and indigenous sounds that came of age along the banks of the Mississippi River. It’s an authentic New Orleans cultural experience that features performances by some of the top names in traditional jazz, Gospel choirs, brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians. Old Algiers RiverFest also offers local cuisine, local and regional arts and crafts and children’s activities along the levee near the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry Landing.

It may be off the beaten track for most visitors, but it is always a welcome surprise –some call it “New Orleans’ Best-Kept Secret,” and the FREE ferry ride (for pedestrians) across the mighty Mississippi offers some of the best views of the city’s unique skyline.

Old Algiers RiverFest is presented annually to celebrate the cultural contributions of Old Algiers. The area known as Old Algiers, nestled in the curve of the Mississippi River’s west bank (which incidentally is not west to the rest of the City of New Orleans!) was established in 1719, making it the second oldest part of the city. Originally granted to Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Sieur de Bienville, it was originally part of the “King’s Plantation” that stretched from Plaquemines to Donaldsonville and then to Natchez, Mississippi. Native Americans lived along the river banks before it was settled by the French.

For nearly a century and a half, the area served as the place where African slaves were held before they were sold into a lifetime of slavery. Some scholars argue that this place is actually sacred ground, the site of the origins of jazz. The slaves –frightened, sick, isolated from the families – quite likely used their tradition of “call and response” and single-line melodies to communicate and comfort themselves and their families –sounds that have influenced the Jazz we hear today.

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