Monday, October 01, 2012

Last Saturday night, two of New Orlean’s oldest traditions occurred.
 One was a Jazz Funeral. Here’s a little history about Jazz Funerals.

They trace back to Northern Africa brought to New Orleans during the slave trade. The Yoruba People called them  “Isinku”,  meaning an elder’s funeral.  In Africa, there is no final “heaven” but various realms in motion, blending together more often than not, intersecting and separating, back and forth through out eternity. 

The “Isinku”, therefore was not an end, but a beginning of an important transition to the ancestral realm, which greatly influences this one.  

The most important part of the ceremony was the “Etutu” which was seven days of festive celebratory rituals presided over by a secret society of “Osugbo”, meaning elders in-step with the ancestors. This ritual comprised of festive and joyful music and dancing to demonstrate the elder’s importance and special life on earth.  Special musicians and dancers were employed, least the departing sprit have to account to the receiving ancestors, for the lack of enthusiasm below. This would have had ramifications in this world from the angry elder.

This pageantry had to accompany the elder’s body and their family in a parade around town or the village, then to the place where the spirit was sent off to the ancestral realm by a ceremonial knocking, three times, on the coffin to alert Papa Legba ( the gate keeper and messenger) of elder’s spirit crossing over. 

The Jazz Funeral last Saturday was attended by over 400 celebrants marking the end of the other tradition, 175 year years of daily of publication of The New Orleans Times-Picayune. That Sunday began The Times-Picayune’s, historic downsizing of staff and publication to a mere three days a week. 

This had been a continuous issue in "Nola" with months of protests against this radical change.

The Times-Picayune is not only considered one of America's finest papers, rivaling the New York Times in terms of journalistic content and investigative reporting, but also contains the whimsical magic that makes New Orleans, "Nola" or "N'awlings" Then, while Hurricane Katrina caught the attention of the world and New Orleans came to a sudden halt, The Times-Picayune continued reporting, which during the storm made it "the world's paper" 

But the bottom line was about "the dollars", and the protestors along with petitions, and press conferences, failed.

That Sunday morning the funeral party, that last lasted all night, moved solemly to the St. Louis Cathedral Catheral in Jackson Square, where a special mass was dedicated soley to the paper and the staff who lost their jobs.

As with the Jazz Funeral and the African ideas of death, The Times-Picayunes is supposed to be only in a transitional stage with an expanded web-site as a now “primary digital news paper", and a collection of blogs to supposedly continue it’s glorious tradition. But in a New York Times article entitled “For New Orleans, a Daily That’s No Longer Daily” Kathy Anderson, a 26 year photographer for the paper, remembers seeing “two homeless people sitting on a bench [ in the French Quarter] with a newspaper arguing the finer points of a political column — something it is hard to imagine happening with a tablet computer.”

Another lost was described in an article in the The New Orlean’s Magazine entitled “Death and The Times Picayune”, where a Ms. Larda who grow up with the "thump of the paper every" every morning on her front porch, will no longer be able to track on a daily basis the “comings and goings” of others via the obituaries. Now when her time comes, she states, she “might have to be put on ice” until the three day publication window so she can have her own obituary, which she continues to plan by reading those who have passed on before her.


Anonymous said...

Invisible Man......

Love how you write about our culture. Sometimes it takes outsiders to remind us how much we got and how much we stand to gain if we work at it . Maybe one day you will won't be an outsider??????? In other words you come on down here soon. These waters are more than fine and are always in need of replenishment with new energies.

Where Y'at Café Girl

Invisible Man said...

Hey Where Y'at Girl, happy to make your acquaintance and one day soon, I too shall be a be a denizen one of the top five best cities in the world, New Orleans.
Chicago is dreary, rainy, and bordering on cold today, while its warm and the sun is shinning in the blessed Crescent City, which makes my heart go pitter patter. What keeps me going is learning about about Nola culture so I will be ready to jump right in upon my arrival. Which is why at this very moment I am considering various Creole Oxtail recipes for tonight's dinner. And please keep me posted if you know of an amazing and supper authentic Cajun cook book? Or any thing else that I might find interesting about my future home!