The Epic Adventures of a Small Man in a Big World

The second line.

Some clarification and by that I mean a brief history lesson… second lines date back to an old jazz funeral tradition originating in 1783 when African slaves taking a page from their history came together in New Orleans to form the first Social (aide) and Pleasure Club. These clubs were designed to reflect the concept of tribal society, the idea that if a member of a club was in need or died, the rest of the club would come together to support that member and their family. It’s basically the idea of coming together, especially in times of need, for the collective good. These clubs initially provided loans, assistance, legal counsel and a means of “education”, meaning reading, writing and learning skilled trades. As mentioned, inevitably there would be deaths in these clubs, and acting as one of the first forms of “insurance” the clubs would come together to pay for funeral costs and put on jazz funerals. In the late 1890s brass bands began to emerge in these communities as musical instruments had become more accessible and so often these bands were asked to play at said funerals. When the church service was over and the march of the mourners began from the church to the cemetery these bands would play slow, sad funeral dirges to reflect the struggles and hardships of life. However, on the way back the music would become more upbeat breaking out into highly spirited tunes symbolizing the dismissal and interment of the physical body and of the spiritual bodies release into heaven. This is when the second line would show up… friends, relatives and acquaintances would follow along dancing with abandon. Fast forwarding, at this point in history the parades have become more of a preservation of cultural heritage and a bonding agent for communities more than anything else. So every Sunday a different neighbourhood throws one of these parades and everyone is welcome to join in. I know I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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2 responses

  1. Michael

    Bring me home a pink suit!

    December 14, 2010 at 8:04 am

    • chrisjardin

      I wish… If I had it in my power… pink suits for all!

      December 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm

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