LEAF’s work in New Orleans

Zulu Connection
Zulu Connection

The Neville family and the local healing-arts festival are developing a new connection: LEAF volunteers helped rebuild the Katrina-destroyed house of Ivan’s cousin Charmaine, and are in a program with Tipitina’s Foundation that helped Ivan and others replace a total of $74,000 in instruments lost in the storm.

“For several days, we pulled and scrapped and dug,” Festival Executive Director Jennifer Pickering says. “After driving around each day, seeing so many destroyed homes, it gave us hope to go to Charmaine’s and see a house come back to life.”

On New Year’s weekend, ten LEAF volunteers delivered instruments in five trucks to musicians in Atlanta, Tuscaloosa (Alabama) and New Orleans. Three weeks ago, they transported three pianos.

In fact, instruments went to members of several LEAF acts here this weekend — including the Klezmer All-Stars, Zulu Connection (African stilt walking, dance), Rebirth Brass Band and Little Rascals Brass Band, and Mardi Gras Indian drum soloist Imhotep, who relocated to Asheville.

The project helped Ivan Neville replace a Hohner E6 clavinet keyboard (an instrument heavy on percussion, with distinctive guitar-like sounds). “They don’t make that anymore,” he points out. “They put on a Web site I lost it. A generous gentleman saw that, called and donated one. I felt really warm about it. Many people gave time and effort to make this happen. It’s amazing.”

Rebirth Brass Band
Rebirth Brass Band

The LEAF-Tipitina’s endeavor also helped some musicians find homes: Rebirth Brass Band drummer A.J. Mallory and family are house guests in Texas, after two weeks in a tent. And local TC Roberson students donated band uniforms.

Other New Orleans-rooted performers slated to perform include the Red Stick Ramblers (Cajun fiddle, etc.), Sunpie Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots (Zydeco), the Mardi Gras Indians, and Nightingale (Celtic, contra dance). Cajun sounds also come from Donna the Buffalo (Zydeco) and Maria Muldaur & Her Red Hot Bluesiana Band.

— Contributor Pete Zamplas is based in Hendersonville.

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