I was in New Orleans over the New Year. I’m a big fan of the music and even back at home in London constantly listen to the New Orleans local radio station WWOZ. During my trip I was listening to the station and came across an interesting track. I recognised the melody which I’d sung and performed with The London Lucumi Choir. It was a Tumba Francesa, a genre of Afro Cuban music introduced to Cuba by slaves from Haiti. I shazamed the track which turned out to be a track called Tumba by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
I then read about a recent documentary film called A Tuba to Cuba which follows the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on a tour of Cuba in which they connect and collaborate with Cuban musicians. I’ve just bought and watched the film and loved it.
In this blog I’m selecting some of the photographs I’ve taken in New Orleans that are inspired by brass instruments and will juxtapose them with recent photographs I’ve shot documenting London’s Afro Cuban music scene.
First up are some pictures taken in Congo Square, Armstrong Park in March 2018 during a prize giving ceremony for young musicians who were awarded funding by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. Congo Square has become known as the birthplace of jazz and historically was for some years the only place where African slaves were allowed to gather and play music:
Sousaphone with reflections:
Next some images taken the other week. Seen parked on the corner with Frenchmen Street – a truck full of brass:
Musicians busking at night on Frenchmen Street:
Since the Preservation Hall Jazz Band visited Cuba it has become increasingly difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba under the the present Trump administration’s trade and travel embargo of the island. However, as reported in the press, some New Orleans musicians managed to overcome the restrictions and attend the 35th annual Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana which took place this month.
I’ve been contemplating the idea of New Orleans and Cuban musical associations in terms of my own photographs and experiences. Rather than digging into my archives and selecting shots taken 10 years ago in Cuba I’m showing some new images of musicians and Cuban percussion, taken at the monthly Afro Cuban Music night held in London’s Dalston. First up is Richard Sweet on conga :
In the photo below, Hamish Orr can be seen playing conga, looking up towards a shekere gourd shaker:
David Pattman on Cajon:
London based Cuban musicians Gerardo de Armas (on the left) and Randy Lester:
A portrait of Randy Lester:
Vicky Jassey on the left and Patrick Cameron with the shekere:
Patrick Cameron is also a regular percussionist with The London Lucumi Choir. Below, a recent portrait of Patrick:
Also published on Medium.