Do Watcha Wanna
New Orleans brass band and gumbo culture celebrated this weekend
Call and response, okra and andouille, brass and snare… these are the things a perfect festival is made of and the ninth annual Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival offers a melting pot of fun Saturday Nov. 12 and Sunday Nov. 13 at Armstrong Park.
The free festival produced by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation returns this year, bringing back crowd favorites and adding new vendors. The Foundation gives back to the community with various festivals through the year that each feature a different form of Louisiana music.
“Several years ago we determined that there really is not a festival in New Orleans dedicated to brass band music,” said Scott Aiges, director of programs, marketing and communications at Jazz and Heritage Foundation. “We made the decision to make the Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival the best showcase for brass bands in the city. Now we feature brass bands almost exclusively.”
Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band will headline and be joined by traditional and contemporary bands including the Hot 8, the Soul Brass and the hottest ladies in town, the Pinettes.
Jazz is the most famous style of music to come out of NOLA, but marching brass actually predates it. Buddy Bolden played in brass bands before ragtime became popular and developed into early jazz. Most of the greats played in marching bands and that brass tradition is a through line in New Orleans music.
“Brass band music is emblematic of New Orleans,” said Aiges. “It is the sound that is known around the world as a symbol of our city. And it remains one of the most popular sounds for our community, so it’s a very vibrant part of both our history and of our modern culture.”
While the bands are tearing up the stage, the chefs will be cooking up the other feature of the festival. Gumbo is the manna that keeps New Orleans running. Everyone has a favorite restaurant and home recipe, and we frequently argue about it. The Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival offers a chance for visitors to try many of the variations at once.
Thirteen food vendors will be out in force with filé gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, seafood gumbo and even vegan gumbo. A new, expanded food court also provides gastronomic excess in the form of red beans, barbeque shrimp, char-grilled oysters, crawfish mac and cheese, fried catfish and Ms. Loretta’s famous pralines for dessert.
Any visitor to New Orleans can’t go home without trying at least two variations of gumbo.
Aiges explained, “Gumbo, for us, symbolizes the ‘kitchen sink’ nature of New Orleans culture. It represents the mix of peoples that settled New Orleans, made it a great city – and it was the intermingling of diverse cultures that led to the advent of jazz and all of the cultural traditions that we hold dear.”
Beyond the brass bands and the food, the festival also incorporates an arts market and children’s activities, as well as new cooking demonstrations this year with chefs Susan Spicer, Leah Chase, Wayne Baquet and Tanya Dubuclet.
As with most free festivals, donations are encouraged and outside food and drink are prohibited (except for special needs). So let’s keep it free and do our part to pass a good time.