The first stop on our musical tour will be in New Orleans. Why? Because New Orleans was, I believe, the first US city to create a large body of significant recordings that helped develop R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll, producing several major million-selling records. New Orleans is a beautiful city located on the Gulf of Mexico with a diversity of ethnic groups and cultural elements forming its brilliant and dynamic culture.

The history of the city goes back as far as the 1700s, when it was formed as a French colony in 1718 and later colonised by the Spanish for a period of time. It later reverted to French colonial rule before finally becoming an official part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

The cultural dynamic of the city is remarkable with input from French, African, English, Spanish, West Indian, Cajun, and Creole. This diverse group of people created and nurtured a fertile environment for musical experiment, out of which the New Orleans sound developed. The African influence on New Orleans music can be traced back to the 1850s in Congo Square in New Orleans, where slaves would gather to play music and dance on Sundays.

LaBranche House, New Orleans 2018   Photo Pedro Szekely

The city enjoyed a cultural independence that set it apart from the rest of America, having been a slave port. It can lay claim to being the place where jazz was born and is often known as the home of the Blues. But in the 1960s and early 1970s it was best known for the funky, soul music to which the city gave birth.