Arts & Entertainment,
May 14th, 2012
Ernie K-Doe performs at the Ernie-2K-Doe celebration on Dec. 31, 1999. (Syndey Byrd, Historic New Orleans Collection / April 26, 2012)
By Lynell George, Special to the Los Angeles Times
In the days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and the dark waters rose in late summer 2005, it didn’t take long for people outside New Orleans to begin inquiring — not just about the safety of loved ones or the state of the infrastructure but something larger — as distinct as it was amorphous.
The concern was not simply what would be physically erased in the wake of disaster — and forced diaspora — but what would happen to the culture. Its “ways” — the music, the language, the rituals and rhythms — all of what animated this unique piece of our nation’s history and identity: the country’s conversation piece.
That culture was a body itself, one that many were already eulogizing — a bit too early as it turns out. And though there is far more work to be done and many New Orleanians who were displaced have chosen to remain estranged (finding it far too painful or financially too difficult to return), others made their way back because life doesn’t make sense anywhere else.
The layered meaning is intended. New Orleans is a place that proudly moves on its own axis. As a testament to that singularity, a new series of books, “The Louisiana Musicians Series,” published by the Historic New Orleans Collection, or HNOC, is an attempt to preserve not just the corpus of work but that unique if not peculiar “soul” of New Orleans’ culture.
As well as a publisher, HNOC, in the city’s French Quarter, is a museum and research center that since 2004 has focused on researching and examining the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region and has also published a collection of books dedicated to fine artists of the region, “The Louisiana Artists Biography Series.”