The Music of New Orleans

I had wanted to go to New Orleans for many years. It wasn’t to get drunk on Bourbon Street or to collect Mardi Gras beads. I wanted to go to New Orleans hear the music.

I got to visit New Orleans twice in 2012, but it was on my first visit where I listened to the music of New Orleans. On street corners. In bars. As I walked beside the river. It wasn’t just jazz or any particular music I was looking to hear. Soon everything began to sound like music. The people as they laughed and talked on sidewalks and in cafes. The rain as it came down and drenched the pavement. The crickets chirping as I walked under streetlights in the evening. The washers as they spun clothes in laundromats. There was music everywhere.

Sometimes there are moments, rare moments that are perfection. One of those moments for me was in New Orleans. I was standing in The French Quarter with a gelato in hand. The afternoon sun was setting. The humidity was rising giving the atmosphere weight. The sounds of a guitar and violin were floating across the breeze. Then I saw bubbles rising in the sky. It felt like something you would see in the movie, but I wasn’t on set. This was real, and at that moment I knew I was where I needed to be.

I grew up playing the piano, singing, and music used to be an active part of my life each day. Now music isn’t as prominent in my life as it was before. I listen to music, but I’m not practising the piano for hours every day. I’m not memorising harmonies to sing in a choir. Hearing music all over in New Orleans made me realise how much I missed music. Visiting New Orleans made me miss the connection I once had to music. New Orleans made me miss myself.

I loved New Orleans, but I can’t give you recommendations for where to hear good music. I wasn’t a good writer on that trip. I didn’t mark down any clubs, or bars, or particular streets where I heard good music. I just followed my ear when I heard a melody floating in the air. My feet got quite sore wandering everywhere, trying to follow the music I heard. Sometimes I would end up in a bar or a club. Often I’d be listening to someone play on a street corner, or in a park, or in a square. No matter what the music was always good.

Frenchman Street in New Orleans

Frenchman Street in New Orleans.

I can write more about the music of New Orleans, but the only way you’ll know what it’s like is if you go there yourself. For anyone who loves music (among many other things) a visit to New Orleans is well worth it. If you can’t go to New Orleans, you can listen to the great local music of New Orleans on WWOZ 90.7. The station has a calendar of music events that occur through the city. Plus they live stream their broadcasts online. A year and a half after my trip to New Orleans I’m still listening to this radio station. Last year I found this great 15 minute documentary Street Saints from Tavner Murphy. It’s all about the unique music of New Orleans.

Watching the documentary above makes me miss New Orleans. I’m not a travel expert, and even with my history, I’m not even a music expert. All I know is that the music of New Orleans was good for my soul. I can’t wait to go back to New Orleans one day and hear the music again.

Things You Should Know

I did Couchsurfing for this trip to New Orleans. If you are looking for a hotel in New Orleans consider booking one here.
If you’re looking for live music venues in New Orleans there are lots to choose from. The Spotted Cat, d.b.a, and Maple Leaf Bar are a few that have been recommended to me. There are also music buskers performing outside, especially around popular areas like Canal Street, Jackson Square, and by Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street.
You can also listen to live music from New Orleans on WWOZ 90.7. They feature a calendar of live music and other events on their website.  

Have you heard the music of New Orleans?

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16 Responses to The Music of New Orleans

  1. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs February 4, 2014 at 2:05 PM #

    Alouise congratulations on your new blog! And what a great post to start with. I so want to visit New Orleans! I have heard much good about this great city!

    • Alouise February 5, 2014 at 6:23 PM #

      Thanks Marysia. New Orleans is a fantastic city. I hope you get a chance to visit it one day.

  2. NZ Muse February 4, 2014 at 2:49 PM #

    Street performance is one thing I think you really just need to wander around and find for yourself. it won’t be the same everytime! We saw solos, pairs, groups, an amazing acapella group… New Orleans was definitely my favourite place for street music.

    • Alouise February 5, 2014 at 6:33 PM #

      Very true. I love that seeing a street performance will be different every time.

  3. Stephen February 4, 2014 at 10:21 PM #

    “Do ya know what it means… to miss New Orleans?”

    You already mentioned it, but Frenchmen is where friends from New Orleans have taken me for reliably good music. Howlin’ Wolf is also I think somewhat popular for live jazz in their little backroom.

    Glad you liked Louisiana!

    • Alouise February 5, 2014 at 6:34 PM #

      I’ll have to keep Howlin’ Wolf in mind for my next trip to New Orleans. There were so many music venues and clubs I wish I would have had time to check out.

  4. Susan Moore February 6, 2014 at 8:20 PM #

    Laissez la bon ton rouler! I hope you get to visit NOLA for the Jazz Fest – it’s such a great time, all types of music. It is held the last weekend of April and first weekend of May each year.

    Tipitina’s is a must visit club in New Orleans – dedicated to Professor Longhair.
    The Maple Leaf is another decent club.
    Haven’t been to New Orleans in years – must get back again soon!

    • Alouise February 8, 2014 at 9:14 PM #

      Going for Jazz Fest is definitely on my New Orleans wish list. Actually I probably need to just go to New Orleans a few weeks before Mardi Gras and stay for several months, but then I might not want to leave.

  5. Pola (Jetting Around) February 7, 2014 at 10:01 AM #

    My one and only visit to NOLA (so far) was too short and I didn’t get to see any music clubs. As a jazz fun, I owe it to myself to go back!

    • Alouise February 8, 2014 at 9:16 PM #

      It sounds funny, but I can totally see how that’s possible. On my second trip to New Orleans I actually didn’t go to any music clubs. I think it all depends where you’re staying, and what areas of the city you’re visiting.

  6. Lindsay February 11, 2014 at 12:16 PM #

    Love the new blog, Alouise! Congrats! As a Louisiana native- I must say that you should aim for French Quarter Festival in April if you want to hear authentic, indigenous Louisiana music of all varieties. It’s free, outdoors, and it’s our (locals) favorite…. beating out Jazz Fest (but Jazz Fest is pretty epic, too…) I’ve written about it here-
    Festival International de Louisiane in nearby Lafayette is also pretty amazing (and free):
    Yes, Frenchman Street is where it’s AT! Next time you get to NOLA, just hang out there. It’s our favorite for music bar-hopping!
    Let me know the next time you’re heading to NOLA, and I can plan a trip down to meet up with you! I go all the time, since it’s home 🙂

    • Alouise February 12, 2014 at 12:06 AM #

      Thanks for the info about The French Quarter Festival and the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette. There are so many things I want to do in New Orleans and Louisiana. Next time I’m there I’ll definitely let you know.

  7. Christopher September 12, 2014 at 3:35 PM #

    Great post about the French Quarter. Never been, but I’d sure like to go.

    • Alouise October 10, 2014 at 12:07 AM #

      Thanks Christopher. New Orleans is a great city, and definitely worth checking out.

  8. Gemma TwoScotsAbroad December 7, 2014 at 9:30 AM #

    I saw Lagniappe Brass Band on Frenchman Street. I am heading back to NOLA in March (first stop of an 18 month career break!) and can’t wait for Craig to hear the magic. I would love to see a Second Line parade at a wedding.

    • Alouise January 3, 2015 at 1:46 PM #

      You should check WWOZ’s website. They’re a local radio station and they usually have a list of upcoming events and Second Lines. Enjoy New Orleans. It’s a great city.

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