The Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Congo Square Rhythms Festival brings music and dance that will feed your soul and your belly


Spring has arrived, and for southern Louisiana that means crawfish prices are coming down and festival season is ramping up. This weekend brings the Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s Congo Square Rhythms Festival and the weather promises to be perfect for this free two-day event.

The 12th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival will be held Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Louis Armstrong Park. The musical lineup includes brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, African dance, Honduran Garifuna, West African highlife, jazz and soul-funk.

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Newlywed Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles will perform Saturday after the annual Mardi Gras Indian “battle” featuring tribes from various neighborhoods who will gather in Congo Square.

Sunday will feature one of the most inspiring aspects of the festival, the Class Got Brass Contest. The competition brings together middle school and high school students from Louisiana who will perform for an all-star panel of judges. Participants compete for gift certificates for musical instruments and supplies — the grand prize is $10,000. Now in its eighth year, Class Got Brass is an important part of the Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s art education programming and intrinsic to its commitment to the cultural legacy of music in New Orleans.

Local favorites like Rebirth Brass Band and the Original Pinettes Brass Band will also perform, but what is so interesting about this festival is the international representation and the celebration of the African diaspora. African dance troupes will perform, Caribbean folk music will be played, “highlife” from Ghana will groove you and Nigerian Afrobeat will get you on your feet.

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The setting of the festival in Congo Square honors the contributions of enslaved Africans and free people of color who gathered there on Sundays as early as the 18th Century. Their drumming and singing became the foundation for gospel, blues, jazz and eventually rock, earning Congo Square recognition and inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Music is the reason to go, but what is a Louisiana festival without good food? Eight vendors will offer Creole soul food treats that might be cause to go both days. The highlights on my list include Café Dauphine’s Cajun seafood eggrolls and deep fried seafood-stuffed bell peppers; Cocoa & Cream Catering’s crawfish nachos and seafood mac-n-cheese; LaDelyo’s Creole Catering’s vegan red beans & rice and crawfish pies; Malou’s Southern Eatery’s fried ribs and jacked up shrimp oysters; and Palmer’s Cuisine’s Rasta pasta and curry chicken pattie. Many dessert options are also planned so sweet peach cobbler, funnel cake, pralines, cheesecake, Italian ice and deep fried Oreo cookies will be available for those who didn’t give up sweets for Lent.

There will also be an art market with nearly 30 vendors featuring fine art, jewelry, clothing, housewares and handmade collectibles. Children will be entertained with new games and activities in the kids area as well.

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No outside food or beverages are allowed, and please keep your pets at home.


Performance Lineup


Saturday, March 30
11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.               Dzakpa Ewe Ensemble
11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.          Bamboula 2000
1 p.m. – 2 p.m.                        The Nayo Jones Experience
2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.              Max Moran and Neospectric
3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.              Mardi Gras Indian Battle
4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.              Big Chief Monk Boudreaux
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.                   Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra

Sunday, March 31
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.                    Open Drum Circle
12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.                 Dance Performances Including:

                                               Dancing Grounds Elite Feet Krewe

                                               Chakra Dance Theater

                                               Tekrema Dance Theater

                                               N'Kafu and Culu African Dance Ensembles

                                               Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective

                                               N'Fungola Sibo African Dance Company

                                               Garifuna Generation

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.              Original Pinettes Brass Band
3 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.                   Class Got Brass Contest
5 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.                   Rebirth Brass Band


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