The New York Times (and I hope other major papers) has been doing a good job not just covering the hurricane and its impact on the people of New Orleans, but also the art and culture of the place. This is especially important because as one local historic preservationist said:
“…People might think we care more about buildings than people, but buildings are them and their community,” said Jennifer Baughn, an architectural historian for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. “You can lose what makes a place a place. The character it had won’t be there.”
The Times has written about the toll the hurricane has taken on New Orleans’–and Mississippi‘s–architectural heritage. It’s also featured Nick Spitzer’s (producer of American Roots) meditation on the disaster and its impact on New Orleans’ musical heritage. Spitzer was also interviewed today on All Things Considered (hear the audio). NPR is also hosting some wonderful songs evocative of New Orleans: Fats Domino’s Walking to New Orleans, Randy Newman’s New Orleans 1927 (vocals by Aaron Neville), Memphis Minnie’s prescient When the Levee Breaks, and Louis Armstrong’s indomitable Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?.
A few days ago, my local station, KBCS, announced that nationwide, a group of community radio stations were organizing to provide assistance to WWOZ. The KBCS DJ told his audience that the station is silent (except for its audio stream), the staff dispersed and the studio a shambles. I first learned about WWOZ from Chuck Taggart, whose old Global Gumbo radio program on KCRW (Santa Monica, CA) was one of the smartest world music programs I’ve heard (his show, now called Down Home, can be heard on KCSN). Taggart’s Gumbo Pages features all things New Orleans from food to music and he holds an especially soft spot in his heart for WWOZ. Those wishing to support WWOZ’ effort to rebuild and revive New Orleans’ musical scene can contribute via WFMU’s site.
And for those who worry that the music died the day Katrina hit the city, never fear. WWOZ is streaming audio-in-exile via its website. You may also participate in the WWOZ message board if you want to rub shoulders with the OZ community.
Chuck’s also compiled a remarkable collection of the best of the music of New Orleans in Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box Of New Orleans. All proceeds from the sale of this 4 CD box set (which includes an 84-page book of essays and notes) from the above linked site will benefit the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
Chuck’s blog features a daily update on his beloved city.