zaterdag 7 april 2012

New Orleans traditional Jazz funeral

You have to be buried properly for the soul to be at peace, to say nothing of the importance of good burial for the survivors. Dancing at funerals was not only a given in Africa, it was an old (and sometimes prohibited) tradition in Spain, a country with African heritage.

A symbol of life, a symbol of death and a symbol of re-birth, the New Orleans jazz funeral salutes a life well lived and the passage of a departed soul into a better world.

The music at the start of the jazz funerals starts off slow and mournful, out of sorrow and respect for the loss of the departed. As the deceased is laid to rest, he has gone to his reward and the music reflects the joy both of the departed's ascension into paradise, along with a celebration of life.

This funeral harkens back to old African traditions – a belief that life wasn’t over at ‘death.’ The Dahomean and Yoruba of West Africa thought that death, in this world, meant that a spirit could now run free into a new one. Those still living would mourn, yes – but then they could revel in the knowledge that their old friend would be dancing his heart out, on the other side.

Louis Armstrong describes a New Orleans Jazz Funeral in the documentary film Satchmo the Great.
"And, speaking of real beautiful music, if you ever witnessed a funeral in New Orleans and they have one of those brass bands playing this funeral, you really have a bunch of musicians playing from the heart, because as they go to the cemetery they play in a funeral march, they play "Flee As a Bird," "Nearer My God Today," and they express themselves in those instruments singing those notes the same as a singer would, you know.  "

 The reason for rocking the casket, is so he can dance one last time.

Some nice B/W photos from Jazz Funerals dating 1968-1970 you can find here

The origins of the Jazz Funeral tradition lie in the colonial era, as French brass bands played in large processions honoring generals and politicians. At the same time, in a public park called Congo Square, African slaves gathered in large concentric circles, ring dances, honoring ancestral spirits. Gradually the two traditions came together -- the line and the ring -- creating a new form of burial ceremony, and with it, a new music called jazz.
People come to jazz funerals in New Orleans because it's part of the spiritual celebration. We celebrate and laugh at life. We celebrate and laugh at death. We dance at the occasion. We're happy because you're going to a better reward. We're sad because you're not here anymore. We're sad because we're going to miss you. We're happy because you're going to a better place, permanently.
A typical jazz funeral begins with a march by the family, friends, and a brass band from the home, funeral home or church to the cemetery. Throughout the march, the band plays somber dirges and hymns. A change in the tenor of the ceremony takes place, after either the deceased is buried, or the hearse leaves the procession and members of the procession say their final good bye and they "cut the body loose". After this the music becomes more upbeat, often starting with a hymn or spiritual number played in a swinging fashion, then going into popular hot tunes. There is raucous music and cathartic dancing where onlookers join in to celebrate the life of the deceased. Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the second line, and their style of dancing, in which they walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air, is called second lining.

"On the way to the cemetery it was customary to play very slowly and mournfully a dirge, or an 'old Negro spiritual' such as 'Nearer My God to Thee,' but on the return from the cemetery, the band would strike up a rousing, 'When the Saints Go Marching In,' or a ragtime song such as 'Didn't He Ramble.' Sidney Bechet, the renowned New Orleans jazzman, after observing the celebrations of the jazz funeral, stated, "Music here is as much a part of death as it is of life."

Though funerals would seem an unlikely source for such a festive tradition, the jazz funeral celebrates life at the moment of death—a concept common among many cultures until the twentieth century. In New Orleans and elsewhere, Europeans and Anglo-Americans attended funerals with music that featured a brass band playing “solemn music on the way to the grave and happy music on the return.” There is also a history of rejoicing at death through music in West African burial traditions.

In the traditional jazz funeral, a prominent member of the community—often a musician and nearly always a black male—is “buried with music.” Benevolent and burial societies traditionally arrange these funerals, often offering the services of a brass band for an extra fee. The societies collect dues throughout the year to pay for members’ health care and burial costs. The musicians, funeral directors, family, and friends of the dead make up what is called the first or main line, while the crowd marching behind is collectively known as the second line. As the procession moves from the funeral service to the burial site, the first and second lines march to the beat of a brass band. At the beginning, the band plays dirges, somber Christian hymns performed at a slow walking tempo. After the body is laid to rest, or “cut loose,” the band starts playing up-tempo music, the second liners begin dancing, and the funeral transforms into a street celebration.
The music and dancing of the jazz funeral were intended to both help the deceased find their way to heaven and to celebrate the final release from the bounds of earthly life, which had, in the past, included the release from slavery. The call-and-response style of music and chant, coupled with tambourines, drums, music and dancing were elements of African funeral ceremonies which crossed the seas with captive slaves. In American culture, this type of funeral caught on among the African- American population of the deep south, but, as the tradition was not welcomed by the Catholic church, was restricted largely to the black Protestants of New Orleans and came to be the funeral of choice particularly among impoverished people and musicians.

Youtube Playlist with many Jazz-Funeral video's. You can click > for the next video. Enjoy!

Music is what feelings sound like

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