This week, cultural ambassador Damon Batiste leads a group of local musicians including Donald Harrison, Jason and Cyril Neville, and David, Jamal, Ryan and Russell Batiste to the French commune Aulnay-sous-Bois, a suburban municipality lying less than 10 miles away from New Orleans’ Parisian sister-city and home to the Alunay All Blues Festival. At the festival, two New Orleans-themed music revues — New Orleans Congo Square International Music Tribute and Fathers & Sons of the New Millennium — will showcase the Crescent City’s chief cultural export.
For Batiste, the junket realizes his vision to expand the international outreach efforts of the New Orleans South African Connection (NOSACONN), a non-profit endeavor he began in 1998 as vehicle to promote indigenous music, art, culture and education and foster economic development between the United States and Africa. Also partaking in Batiste’s Alunay excursion are Mardi Gras Indian and stilt dancer Shaka Zulu, whose Rampart St-based Golden Feathers Restaurant doubles as a gallery with Mardi Gras Indian suits and stories on display, and author and historian Freddie Williams Evans, whose award-winning book Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans will receive its French release. Hear the story of this emerging diaspora as it unfolds… Listen up!