About this project
Hello from New Orleans! Thanks for checking out our Kickstarter page!
Brass Roots is a documentary seeking to chronicle the history, people and culture surrounding contemporary New Orleans brass band music.
Begun in 2009 by three friends living in New Orleans, this project originated from our shared love of New Orleans brass bands, second lines and their rich history of tradition and culture. In the past 18 months, we've compiled hundreds of hours of footage from interviews, live performances and second lines in order to gain a deeper understanding of New Orleans' signature music genre.
Already, we've spoke with: members of the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, Treme, Soul Rebels, Hot 8, Free Agents, To Be Continued, and Stooges brass bands. We've also interviewed musicians Leroy Jones and Glen David Andrews; rappers Mannie Fresh, Jay Electronica and Dee-1; artist Frenchy; writers Lolis Eric Elie and Tom Piazza; and Tulane professors Bruce Raeburn and Matt Sakakeeny.
Our goal is to finish our film by September 2011 so that we can submit it to film festivals and hopefully premiere in early 2012.
Check out the links below to learn about the filmmakers and keep up with our progress:
About the documentary:
We started Brass Roots as a side project to interview some of our favorite brass bands and it has just snowballed since then. What we discovered was more than just a group of bands that play the same type of music (though with many different styles), what we came to realize was that these musicians are part of the cultural fabric and history of New Orleans.
Brass band music and New Orleans have been synonymous since the city was founded in the late 18th century. It was brass bands that helped spawn the birth of jazz in the Crescent City and it is brass bands that continue that tradition of innovation to this day.
This film will tell the story of how and when brass band music seemed to hit a low point in the late 1960s (participation and interest among youth had been diverted away by emergence of R&B, Funk and Soul music), and how a man named Danny Barker began the Fairview Baptist Church Band with the intent of reintroducing the youth of New Orleans to the traditional forms of New Orleans music.
Using the tools he taught them as musicians and performers, Barker's pupils took off on their own and ended up forming the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which was the first to incorporate modern sounds the musicians were hearing on the radio with the classical styles of New Orleans jazz.
The Dirty Dozen's popularity soared and spawned a slew of imitators and inspired bands like Rebirth, The Soul Rebels and Hot 8 to pave their own way in New Orleans music history. Each band took styles they learned from previous generations and incorporated it with forms like funk, soul, rock, hip-hop and other contemporary pop beats to create a continually evolving, but always classically rooted music genre.
About Kickstarter and where your donation will go:
Kickstarter is an incredible resource that helps creative projects find the funding they need to become a reality. But the real beauty is that anyone can make a donation from $1 to $100 and beyond, and it all goes directly to a cause you believe in.
Take a moment and review our donation schemes and rewards offered.
Money from your donation will go to hiring a narrator (we're already in talks with an actor born in New Orleans), pay the bands that have and will continue to participate in our film and record their music live in concert, help pay travel expenses to go on tour with some of these bands and to finish overall production on the film (complete more interviews, pay licensing fees on music, finish video editing, sound mixing, marketing and DVD packaging for festival submissions and other related production costs).
More than just music.
All the while these bands were being formed and the music was being changed, the art form was reflecting New Orleans' complex, and often troubled, history as an urban center in the American South.
New Orleans has been plagued with corruption violence and marginalization of its African-American community, from the building of a highway overpass over the Treme, which all but killed commerce in the city's oldest black neighborhood, to the complete deterioration of the city's public schools and recreation departments, which has left multiple generations of New Orleans' youth at risk and unprepared for adult life.
Brass bands serve as an avenue for New Orleans youth to escape the cycle of poverty and violence that has swallowed vast swaths of the city. Kids who begin learning music in marching bands can be inspired by seeing the success of brass bands who tour across the country and the globe.
Similarly, brass band musicians take active roles in guiding younger musicians away from the negative aspects of the city and training them to earn an honest living. Members of brass bands have formed the Roots of Music, worked as band leaders for high school marching bands or otherwise contributed time and energy to stem the flow of violence in New Orleans and nurture the growth of musicians and artists in the city.
Brass Roots also looks at how brass band music serves as a cipher for passing down hundred-year-old traditions to younger generations, keeping the artistry, culture and character of New Orleans alive through music.
More than just a documentary.
Beyond completing a feature film that showcases the sounds and stories of these brass bands, we want to create an archive and database for future generations to be able to access if they want to learn more about the history of New Orleans music.
Through our research, we've come to realize that the actual amount of information out there on this topic is limited. We've been primarily restricted to Keeping the Beat on the Street by Mick Burns and to a collection of photographs and interviews from Tulane's Hogan Jazz Archive, the Historic New Orleans Collection, and The Backstreet Cultural Museums.
We've also relied on video and photographs donated to us by the musicians and families themselves and by interested parties that have come across our project, but unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the source material that would have helped us.
We've conducted so many interviews and filmed so many parades, second lines and concerts, that there is no way we'll be able to fit it all into one film. Our goal is to donate copies of all the footage we've collected to the various educational resources in New Orleans so that future students, historians and music lovers will be able to use it as a reference in their work or other pursuit.
Ultimately we wish to provide a way to preserve the culture and music we hold dear and honor the musicians we've worked with, all of whom have shown us tremendous generosity of spirit and goodwill.
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