Any music fanatic needs to make a trip to New Orleans at least once in their lifetime. Learn why with our ultimate guide to New Orleans music.
This iconic park that lies in the heart of New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood has a long history of music and celebration. Armstrong Park’s roots date back to the antebellum period when enslaved Africans would meet to unite, sing, and dance in Congo Square. That same resilient spirit remains in the park to this day where it is home to several of the city’s favorites music festivals and special events.
Bounce music and New Orleans native Big Freedia are forever intertwined. Known as the Queen of Bounce, her work in the genre is unmatched, from her own hits to features on songs from some of music’s biggest artists, including Beyoncé, Drake, and Kesha. Big Freedia is always performing in shows around town, so be sure to drop by one or another.
When Bryan Williams founded Cash Money Records in New Orleans circa 1991, he didn’t know that the label would go on to produce some of hip hop and rap’s most influential artists. Now distributed through Republic, Cash Money has signed everyone from Lil’ Wayne to Nicki Minaj and Drake in its years since inception.
Two multifaceted artists who contributed heavily to New Orleans’ music scene - Dr. John and Danny Barker. One helped to pave the way for jazz musicians and the other helped reinvent the sound. Both are heavily adored and uniquely NOLA.
Renowned New Orleans musician Ellis Marsalis was a jazz pianist and educator who left a musical legacy in the city when he passed away in 2020. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music exists to uplift the community of the Lower Ninth Ward, complete with youth and adult programs including music lessons. As the patriarch of the Marsalis family, his children continue the family tradition.
Frenchmen Street is the epicenter of all things live music in NOLA. The five-block stretch of music-fueled fun is best known for its host of local brass bands serving sounds daily. You can also enjoy live music performances, burlesque shows, karaoke, dance parties, and more.
When local band Galactic bought Uptown music venue Tipitina’s in 2018, it was a win-win for all. Tipitina’s opened in 1977 in honor of New Orleans’ own Professor Longhair and has remained one of the most iconic music venues in the city ever since. The list of performers that have graced the stage is both lengthy and impressive, including everyone from the Neville Brothers and Trombone Shorty to larger national acts like Lenny Kravitz, James Brown, Pearl Jam, and Patti Smith.
Any NOLA native knows the significance of high school marching bands. During Mardi Gras season, the streets are filled with local students parading throughout the city to celebrate one of the most festive times of the year. These young performers are known to fill the air with music, pageantry, and fun during each Mardi Gras Parade.
“Talkin' 'bout Hey now, hey now/ Iko iko an de/ Jock-a-mo fee no ah na nay/ Jock-a-mo fee na ne” Synonymous with New Orleans, everyone knows Iko Iko, written in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford. But, not many know that Iko Iko isn’t the original name of the song; “Jock-a-Mo,” is the song’s original title. Take a listen to this much-covered hit on our New Orleans Music Playlist.
Jon Batiste is a New Orleans music legend in the making. The trained jazz pianist studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and St. Augustine High School before attending Julliard and going on to win five Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and a Golden Globe. Batiste’s music truly encapsulates the soul of New Orleans – so much so that his alma mater St. Aug was featured on his latest award-winning record.
Passed down from one local musician to the next, the Mother-in-Law Lounge is a staple of the historic Treme neighborhood. Originally owned by New Orleans’ own Ernie K-Doe, the Mother-in-Law Lounge was purchased by Kermit Ruffins in 2014 to continue showcasing the spirit of music, soul, and fun that Treme is known for.
What do a jazz legend and rap guru have in common? New Orleans! From Louis Armstrong to Lil’ Wayne, the Crescent City celebrates all forms of music and sound. So much so that we have the annual Satchmo Summerfest and Lil Weezyana Festival to honor both of their legendary contributions to American music and New Orleans culture.
Nestled in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, the Music Box Village is a hidden sculpture garden where the structures double as musical instruments. Visitors can enjoy orchestral shows featuring local and national artists or experience the music box themselves during public hours. The site is also family-friendly, and a great place for kids to experiment with sound and music.
What began as a small fest featuring local music, art, and food in Congo Square has blossomed into one of the largest music festivals in New Orleans and the U.S. While the world-renowned New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or Jazz Fest, has evolved over the years, it remains rooted in its mission to showcase authentic New Orleans culture through food, music, and art.
New Orleans knows that music has the power to unite no matter who you are or where you come from. With that premise, the Offline Playlist was born. Found exclusively on Spotify, this two-part compilation features a host of notable New Orleans musicians, unique genres, and original songs. Start streaming today for a taste of NOLA anywhere in the world.
Easily one New Orleans’ most iconic performance venues, Preservation Hall has been a fixture of jazz since 1961. On just about any given day of the year, guests can experience live music by the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz band or one of the hall’s 50+ local master jazz musicians.
You can’t talk New Orleans music without including the Queen of New Orleans Soul, Ms. Irma Thomas. A legendary artist who always stayed true to her local roots, Thomas is a Grammy Award Winner, a Jazz Fest hall-of-famer, and a blues icon.
Nothing says New Orleans music quite like a homegrown brass band, including Rebirth Brass Band. Typically comprised of a variety of instruments including trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, and more, brass bands are a traditional fixture of the NOLA music scene. Find them throughout second line routes, along Frenchmen Street and at special celebrations such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, and even funerals.
One of the best things about New Orleans is walking down any avenue, block, boulevard, or street and soaking in the authentic sounds of the city from the people of New Orleans. Violinists, vocalists, tap dancers, and more are among endless acts and performances found throughout the Crescent City.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is a skilled musician and electric performer born and raised in New Orleans. His story is somewhat of a New Orleans fairy tale, appearing on stage at Jazz Fest with Bo Diddley at the age of four. The rest is history – catch Trombone Shorty in one of his many shows across town.
Uptown, downtown, across town, or all of the above, New Orleans is bursting with music venues. Away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, a few of our favorite Uptown venues include Tipitina’s, Gasa Gasa, Maple Leaf Bar, and the New Orleans Jazz Market.
Voices of the Wetlands Allstars is a musical collaborative between several well-known local artists: Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Corey Duplechin, Johnny Vidacovich, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone, and Waylon Thibodeaux. Dedicated to activism through art, these musicians unite time and time again to spread awareness on coastal restoration.
WWOZ is New Orleans’ community-supported radio station specializing in music and programming specific to New Orleans heritage and culture. You can experience a piece of WWOZ by tuning in daily to 90.7 FM, stopping by the annual WWOZ Live Music Tent at Jazz Fest or browsing the OZ Live Music Calendar for nightly live music throughout New Orleans.
New Orleans’ own Mia X (aka Mia Young) made history as the first female rapper signed to No Limit Records, Master P’s deeply influential record label that counted Snoop Dogg and Silkk the Shocker as recording artists during the early-to-mid 90s. Mia’s rise to fame coincided with a period in New Orleans’ music history where NOLA-born rappers were topping the charts, from the aforementioned signees of No Limit to the heavy hitters at Cash Money Records, including Lil’ Wayne, Birdman, Juvenile, and Mannie Fresh.
There’s no shortage of reasons to fest in New Orleans, and music is one of our favorite fest-worthy features. There are plenty of music festivals throughout the year in New Orleans.
While Zydeco is most frequently heard in the more Cajun-heavy parts of Louisiana, this raucous genre can be enjoyed throughout New Orleans at a number of festivals, including the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, on the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest, and weekly at Zydeco dance night at Rock’n’Bowl, just to name a few.