Congo Festival, also called Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival, celebrates the music and dance of the African, Caribbean, and Indian cultures that contributed to the unique sounds created in New Orleans.
This free festival is held annually and hosted by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Over two-days, the stage highlights a variety of different music and dance artists showing the melting pot of traditions.
With the springtime flowers blooming and a nice warm day, the festival was a great opportunity to both experience the festival but also to hang out in Louis Armstrong Park. The sprawling park is centered on Congo Square. During the 17th century and well into the 18th century, slaves were permitted to gather on Sundays at Congo Square which was outside the city limits. Notice you will cross Ramparts Street to enter the park which was the former city limit. The slaves enjoyed music, dance, and songs from their African and Caribbean cultures and blended them creating a new rich culture. Congo Square is the birthplace of many musical sounds including Jazz.
Music and Dance of Africa & the Caribbean
This was really the highlight for me. The rich beats of the African and Caribbean music and the wonderful dancers were something that I have not had an opportunity to experience. The variety of ages of the performers also showed me that the traditions run deep and were handed down to each generation which was a common theme I found in New Orleans.
Appearances of the Mardi Gras Indians
This is the time of year to see the Mardi Gras Indians. Congo Festival occurs right after Super Sunday where the Mardi Gras Indians parade in their richly beaded and feathered costumes.
Brass Band Competition
The festival takes place in conjunction with the fourth annual Class Got Brass competition for Louisiana middle and high school brass bands. The bands performed on Sunday afternoon in a second-line parade with the winners to receive ~$20,000 worth of instruments for their schools’ band programs.
The Festival, like most in New Orleans, has a great selection of food vendors where you can try out Jamaican jerk chicken, shrimp po-boys, soul food and more. There is also an Arts Market with a variety of hand-made arts and crafts showcasing the arts of Africa, the Caribbean and New Orleans.
- Official Website
- Come Hungry: Enjoy and sample of variety of the flavors of New Orleans at the food booths.
- Explore the Park: Safety is a concern in New Orleans as there have been several muggings especially of people alone and tourists. Unfortunately, I was warned several times that Louis Armstrong Park is unsafe both day and especially at night for tourist (especially alone) due to muggings. The Festival though provides an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful park as on the festival day it is full of people.