From New Orleans to southern France, Trinidad to Brazil, we celebrate Mardi Gras masquerading and dancing to the beat of Carnival music. We’ll visit with Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux as he suits up in handmade, feathered regalia and struts through the streets with his gang. Then we travel to southern France for the Carnival parade and music of Nice, and costumed revelry a few hours east in the wine country town of Limoux. Back home in French Louisiana, it’s the Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras where beggar clowns dance for a chicken to put in a communal gumbo feast. Plus calypso, New Orleans brass bands and rhythm & blues classics to keep the krewe mamboing through the end of Fat Tuesday.
Bessie Smith was called the Empress of the Blues, but she was also the highest paid African American entertainer of her generation. We’ll explore the life and times of Bessie Smith from her early days performing on Chattanooga street corners and her travels on the TOBA circuit to her decade as a top selling recording artist. Then, a conversation with Annika Chambers, a 21st Century blues woman and classic Bessie Smith songs by Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Alberta Hunter.
photo: Bessie Smith holding feathers by Carl Van Vechten, February 3, 1936.
We listen for poetry in music and music in poetry, songs as poems and poems as songs with Langston Hughes, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Ken Nordine. Plus, a visit to New York’s City Lore with poet-folklorist Steve Zeitlin, who rides the POEMobile to the People’s Poetry Gathering and then back to New Orleans to meet Louisiana’s poet laureate, Mona Lisa Saloy.
Photo of Sahar Muradi, Director of Education Programs at City Lore
We travel to Jamaica and Cuba, with connections in NY and New Orleans. Singer Jimmy Cliff is the global reggae star whose career was launched a half century ago by the iconic film and sound track, The Harder They Come. We talk with him about his start in the early days of Jamaican recorded music and his work to make the world a better place for everyone. Then bandleader and pianist Arturo O’Farrill shares his family heritage in Afro-Latin jazz and a recent project playing music of all kinds on the US side of the Mexican border at the Fandango at the Wall. Plus music from around the Caribbean and Gulf South with Toots and the Maytals, Machito and Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr.