Congo Square

Historic African Drum Circle 

The history of Congo Square is presented at the Jazz Crawl through an African drum circle. Everyone is encouraged to grab one of the many percussion instruments available to create a unified rhythm that moves people to dance in the circle.

The roots of jazz music can be traced back to the late 18th Century with the tribal like gatherings that took place at Congo Square in Spanish-controlled New Orleans. What separated New Orleans from the British colonies was the more laid-back attitude of the French and Spanish in terms of how slaves were treated. The Spanish and Catholics didn’t concern themselves with the ‘African’ aspects of slave life and culture that their slaves kept, whereas the Protestant British settlers forbid African-based music, song, and dance and forced their slaves to practice Christianity.

Respecting Sunday as “a day of rest”, the Spanish gave their slaves the day off and allowed them to socialize at a gathering point called Congo Square. They would bring drums, bells, and other instruments to entertain themselves with tribal music, songs, and dance. Once a week they could be Africans again through their celebrations at Congo Square.

Music historians regularly argue the significance of Congo Square’s role in the evolution of jazz, but there is no denying that it kept African music, rhythm, and dance alive in New Orleans.


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