The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: History and 2022 Highlights

With International Jazz Day currently in our rearview, one of the most iconic and celebrated jazz festivals returned after a three-year hiatus. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is held over two weekends. Taking place on the Fair Grounds Racecourse, it will include up to 80 musical acts, over 100 performers, art and craft exhibits, and a variety of food and beverage stalls. The next set of musical performances is set from May 5 to 8, 2022.

A Brief History

The festival’s origins can be traced back to the 1970s when it was spontaneously put together by singer Mahalia Jackson, jazz pianist George Wein, composer Duke Ellington, and others while attending the Louisiana Heritage Fair in Congo Square. This fair, which took place between April 22 and April 26, 1970, drew 350 people. What began as a parading musical performance at a heritage festival evolved into a cultural phenomenon, and the event grew from strength to strength.

The festival was moved to the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course in 1972 and drew crowds of up to 80,000 people by 1975. Between 1972 and 1976, the festival expanded to two separate three-day weekends. It added an extra Thursday to its second weekend in 1991.

Along with Jazz, Soul, Gospel, R&B, the festival has grown to incorporate hip-hop, rock and roll, folk, country, reggae, funk, and other cultural music, including the French, African, Caribbean, and many more.

The Festival

Starting with only a parade in 1970, the event today includes multiple stages at the venue, each differently themed. Appropriately titled is the ‘Congo Square Stage’, paying homage to its roots. Other stages this year include ‘Blues Tent’ and ‘Cultural Exchange Pavilion’.

Over the years, this jazz festival has hosted a slew of established artists as well as up-and-coming musicians. Artists who have previously played throughout the festival weekends include Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, B.B. King, Dave Matthews Band, Joni Mitchell, Al Green, and Pitbull, to name a few.

There are a variety of activities and marketplaces available to complement the music. This year’s Congo Square African Marketplace will include a diversity of local, national, and international artists displaying old crafting traditions, as well as the culture and spirit that helped develop jazz and heritage. Also, every weekend features a diverse line-up of artisans and craftsmen in the Contemporary Crafts section. It contains all genres of the most fascinating, beautifully handmade crafts.

In order to make the festival more sustainable, the festival has expanded its existing recycling program and added a few new projects. As mentioned on its website, participants who collect 25 cans or bottles in the mesh bags provided will enjoy discounts on souvenir T-shirts at designated official festival sales tents. Also, Jazz fest will continue its long-standing tradition of collecting wasted cooking oil from food vendors, which is then converted into fuel for shrimping boats.

Did You Know:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day to recognize the music and its influence on cultures around the world. In July 2011, Herbie Hancock, the iconic jazz pianist, was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue in recognition of his significant commitment to the promotion of peace via dialogue, culture, and the arts.

The Event This Year

Its first weekend witnessed a host of performers, including The Who, Charlie Wilson, Jason Isbell, The 400 Unit, Nelly, Lionel Richie, Death Cab for Cutie, CeeLo Green, Arturo Sandoval, and many other bands, artists, and stage entertainers! Also taking place are honorary tributes to the festival organizers at the memorial garden.

Added to the lineup was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who took the stage replacing the Foo Fighters. In an emotional moment with the audience, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith addressed the Foo Fighters’ absence from the stage following the tragic and unexpected death of Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighter’s drummer. The two bands have performed and toured together several times. At the fFestival, Smith got the audience to chant “We Love You, Taylor.” Chad Smith also performed with a drum kit with Taylor’s name on it.

Upcoming Line-Up

Yet to perform across the different stages for the finale weekend are a number of talented musicians. They include The Rayo Brothers – a folk-rock band, The Daiquiri Queens, Norah Jones, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Willie Nelson & Family, Kool & The Gang, Luke Combs, Billy Strings, Ziggy Marley, The Black Crowes, Stevie Nicks, Lena Prima, and many others!

Documentary Film

‘Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story’ will be released on May 13, following the festival’s conclusion. It will provide significant insights and archival documentary material on the festival and is directed by Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern. As shown in the teaser, it will feature a multitude of musicians, including Pitbull, Katy Perry, Bruce Springsteen, Trombone Shorty, and Jimmy Buffett, among others.

Stay updated with the events on the official website by clicking HERE.
Follow New Orleans Jazz Fest on Instagram: HERE


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Feature Image Via Jambase.

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