In the years before the slaves were liberated, their owners in New Orleans would give them a "day off" from their free labor on Sundays. They would gather in Congo Square, located in Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States. It is in Congo Square where these slaves would sing, dance, and create drum rhythms in keeping with their ancestral African heritage.
These African rhythms, along with other musical influences in New Orleans, eventually filtered into what the Crescent City is most known for: jazz music.
Today, that colorful African heritage is celebrated in the same locale, in Congo Square, which is now a section of Louis Armstrong Park. The festival began in 2007 and is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with the Foundation's Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium.
The late Tom Dent, for whom the symposium was named, was a noted New Orleans writer, folklorist and civil rights activist.
This free festival celebrates the historic role of Congo Square as the birthplace of American music. The Tom Dent Symposiums feature panel discussions in topics relating-the mixture of world cultures that took place at Congo Square, resulting in the development of jazz and, by extension, all of American music.
This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong Park (835 N. Rampart Street). The festival offers the best of African drumming and dance, together with music from Africa, the Caribbean and the American South.
The 2018 line up and schedule is as followed:
Saturday, March 3 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Drum Circle 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Bamboula 2000 1:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. Fufu Allstars 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Alexey Marti Quintet 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Mardi Gras Indian Battle 4:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Quiana Lynell 5:15 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Water Seed 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Rebirth Brass Band
Sunday, March 4 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Drum Circle 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Sneak Preview African Dance Performance: "Bricks: From the River to the Bayou" - a collaborative dance interpretation of New Orleans history in celebration of the city's tricentennial. • "Katalis and Seremoni: Dutty Boukman, Cecile Fatima and Charles Deslondes," performed by the Chakra and Omosede Dance Theater • "Fly With It!," performed by Tekrema Dance Theater • "Mali," performed by the Culu and N’Kafu African Dance Ensembles • "Indigenous," performed by Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective 1 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. N’Fungola Sibo African Dance Company 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Pinettes Brass Band 3:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Class Got Brass Contest 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Hot 8 Brass Band
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. was established in 1970 with a mission-sow the seeds of our unique culture for generations-come. As the nonprofit owner of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival -- Jazz Fest -- the foundation works all year long-promote and develop the culture of New Orleans and the surrounding region. Their areas of focus are education, economic development and culture.