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It's Time To Make a Change


The music of the numerous brass and marching bands in New Orleans was functional open air music, related to the music made by brass bands whose existence throughout the whole of the nineteenth century has been proven. Every community had its own fire brigade, police, school band or other ensemble, turning festivities into real parties with their marches and patriotic tunes. In New Orleans the brass bands were patronised by the many fraternities, lodges and other organisations of Afro-Americans. They ensured many a citizen a respectable funeral accompanied by music, 'a perfect death', as Jelly Roll Morton described it. In the 'Leaving the Cemetery Tunes', after the funeral march to the graveside the community took leave of the deceased in a ritualistic and elated way. This remarkable reversal of the Christian way - celebrating death and crying at birth - finds its parallel in the ceremonial burial rituals of West African tribes: in Dahomey for example, there is great lamentation before the funeral and afterwards a joyous wake. The African idea is that the departed one needs a cheerful send-off: a moralistic exchange with the dead person is seen as tactless and at the same time nonsensical.