When the levees broke in New Orleans, flooding the cradle of American music, Fats Domino ignored the calls for evacuation. Days later, he was declared missing, along with thousands of other New Orleanians. The "Ain't That a Shame" singer eventually was rescued by boat from the house he refused to leave, but other NOLA musicians suffered fates far worse: death or relocation.
With the guardians of its musical traditions scattered across the country (small zydeco and Cajun scenes likely are sprouting in places like Topeka), New Orleans struggles in the wake of Katrina to revive its legendary scene. Fundraisers have been held, benefit CDs produced and non-profits formed to take on this mission. Even here in Colorado, music fans are doing their part.
Perhaps the best way to help return musicians to their home is by donating to The Backbeat Fund (backbeatfund.org).
Named for the rhythm that defines the NOLA sound and that's influenced all genres of American music, from rock & roll to jazz and funk, the Backbeat Fund aims to assure that "the musical heritage of New Orleans is able to return to live in the city when the time comes to rebuild." That time is now.
In northern Colorado, Fort Collins-based KRFC 88.9 FM is offering Concert for the Gulf Coast, a benefit CD to help keep NOLA music alive. Days after the flood waters rose, KRFC teamed up with Colorado recording artist Liz Barnez, who hails from New Orleans, and held a concert and telethon that raised over $40,000 in one evening.
Featuring live performances by Colorado artists like Barnez, Three Twins (featuring members of the Subdudes) and Nina Storey, Concert for the Gulf Coast is available for $19.98 at krfcfm.org. All proceeds aid the rebirths of New Orleans radio stations downed by Katrina.
Recording Artists for Hope also was formed to offer musical relief. The organization, featuring mainly independent musicians local to Houston, produced The Katrina CD, which is perhaps the most popular relief disc, available at katrinacd.com.
Jamgrass and jam band fans will enjoy Musicians Assisting Disaster Efforts: A Conscious Alliance of Voices, Vol. 1. Conscious Alliance, a Colorado-based organization that aims to "[feed] the hungry locally and nationally through art, music and athletics," has assembled a diverse group of caring pickers for this album.
The disc features Kansas-based grass punkers Split Lip Rayfield, Colorado's Hit and Run Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band and Umphrey's McGee, as well as a tribute song to New Orleans by The Gourds.
If it's the real deal you crave, check out Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast, an album composed entirely by New Orleans artists like Buckwheat Zydeco and Dr. John.
There's also Higher Ground Hurricane Benefit Relief Concert; A Celebration of New Orleans Music to Benefit MusiCares Hurricane Relief 2005; and Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, which features musical heavyweights like Norah Jones, Wyclef Jean and Kanye West.