From Katrina to COVID, the music survives but for how long

Fifteen years ago, New Orleans was literally underwater. And while the city has bounced back, I’m not sure our country has learned very much from the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. This week’s show is my seventh annual Katrina recognition kicked off by the Free Agents Brass Band sounding both joyous and angry upon its return to New Orleans after Katrina in “We Made It Through That Water.” Start it now and then read on.

First, the good news. Based on initial reports, evacuations in anticipation of the recent Hurricane Laura, while complicated by the pandemic, seems to have saved lives. It was a different story 15 years ago when despite a mandatory evacuation perhaps as many as 200,000 were left behind and roughly 1,000 died in Orleans Parish alone. Yes, some chose to stay behind. But many others had no transportation or financial means to leave. Public buses that could have been used to aid in evacuation were left idle.

The bad news? The continued erosion of the state’s wetlands and delta lands means even greater damage to populated areas. On this show, you’ll hear James Karst, spokesman for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, describe the threat coastal erosion poses but also of the good work his nonprofit is doing to correct it. On his suggestion, you’ll hear Bonerama’s jamming song “Mr. Go” — a reference to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet channel that contributed to the flooding of New Orleans and erosion of Louisiana wetlands. The channel is now closed.

New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Floodwaters were present for roughly six weeks.

In Northwest United States, the most immediate effect of climate change appears to be wildfires. In the Southeast, its the ferocity of hurricanes. It’s time we pay attention to what’s happening. It would be nice to have a national plan for controlling carbon emissions but at the very least, we should be aggressively working to mitigate some of the harsher impacts of climate change.

The power of the water when the levees broke pushed houses off foundations and cars down several blocks.

Today’s show includes some of my regular Katrina songs such as Shamarr Allen’s “Katrina and the Flood” and Trombone Shorty’s “Hurricane Season.” But I’ve added some different songs to the mix to make for a show featuring blues, rock, jazz and, of course, lots of brass.

By the way, here’s how you can access my other Katrina recognition shows:

The 2019 Katrina recognition show focused on ‘the delta and Louisiana coastline.

The 2018 Katrina recognition show was dedicated to Puerto Rico which had just been chewed up by Hurricane Maria.

The 2017 Katrina recognition show was dedicated to ALL flood victims.

The 2016 show focused on the Louisiana Flood of 1927 but I didn’t record it. Sorry.

The 2015 Katrina recognition show was a two-parter (10 year anniversary). The first goes into the detail of the storm and its impact. The second focuses on the musicians and their stories. The shows features short excerpts from Spike Lee’s movie “When the Levees Broke.” Both shows can be accessed at the end of the page on this link.

The 2014 show was a pilot for Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa and I did it as part of the morning show I was doing at the time. No recording. No webpage.

Next week, I’ll be celebrating SIX YEARS of GUMBO YAs YAs. Hope you can join me.

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.

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