Category: New Orleans

Galactic's 'Carnivale Electricos' makes one big party

Galactic’s 'Carnivale Electricos' combines New Orleans’ Mardi Gras tradition and Brazil’s Carnaval celebration.

Galactic !!!

It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s Carnaval in Rio. Beads are being thrown, tails are being shaken. Parades are rolling through the streets in blowouts bidding “farewell to the flesh” before Ash Wednesday brings on Lenten austerity. And there’s much flesh being celebrated.

Sure, the respective revelries and all their fleshly displays are well known around the world. But it would seem that not everyone realizes that Mardi Gras and Carnaval are the same thing, just from different branches of the Catholic tree — New Orleans with its French origins and Brazil being Portuguese. Even the fact that Mardi Gras in New Orleans is often referred to as carnival.

“I didn’t really put it together,” says Robert Mercurio. “I’ve lived in New Orleans since 1990. But it took me a while to connect the dots.”

Those dots are connected, colorfully, by the veteran New Orleans band Galactic on the album “Carnivale Electricos,” released Tuesday. Mercurio is the quintet’s bassist and, with sax player Ben Ellman, co-producer of the album. Arguably it’s the culmination of the group’s 18-year evolution from purveyors of party funk in the tradition of the Meters to an imaginative unit using studio savvy, a wide variety of guest stars and, of course, its own estimable skills to create lively, impressionistic portraits of New Orleans’ spirit.

After having explored sounds of various New Orleans neighborhoods on its last two studio albums, 2007’s “From the Corner to the Block” (heavy on hip-hop and its local, often transgender variant called bounce) and 2010’s “Ya-Ka-May” (the title referring to a New Orleans ramen noodle concoction used to cure hangovers), the band decided it was finally time to do a Mardi Gras album. But the musicians wanted to do something that really stood out from the dozens, if not hundreds, of Fat Tuesday collections already out there.

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The state of working musicians in New Orleans: 'Half the gigs ... and the work pays less'

It's not hurricanes challenging New Orleans' musicians anymore; it's the economy. Five years ago this weekend, Hurricane Katrina decimated the city and its music community, but the recession has set a slow pace for its recovery.

According to the third annual State of the New Orleans Music Community Report, there are 50% fewer gigs in the Crescent City than there were before the storm, and it has been that way for the last two years.

"Musicians currently have half the gigs they did before the flood, and this work pays less than pre-Katrina," says Gabriela Hernandez, executive director of the non-profit relief agency Sweet Home New Orleans (SHNO), which released the report. "At the same time, the recession has eliminated a lot of the service industry day jobs they've previously relied on. So while the cost of living has skyrocketed in the city, musicians are seeing their opportunities to earn money dry up."

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