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Jerome Smith, Community Leader Moving force behind the Tambourine and Fan Club Interviewed at the Treme Community Center, St. Philip and Villere Streets, October 2002 Treme Community Center, St. Philip and Villere Photo by Barry Martyn Tambourine and Fan is really an extension of the Mississippi Freedom Schools, a backdrop from the civil rights movement. I "was involved in much of that, thefreedom riders and the sit-ins and thejails and all those activities. There was always, when I was a young boy, music at the school acrossthe street [Craig School] before this community was ruptured, one,by the Armstrong Park, and two, by the 1-10 expressway. The expressway took and ruptured the rhythms of the neighborhood.For example, when I was a boy in the neighborhood... see this box? Without anyone telling a kid—these things happen as if by osmosis—most ofthej/oungsters startedplaying on boxesand bottles, etc.,etc. Now, if a band was to come through the neighborhood,at times, afew of us would jump out of the windows of Craig School tofollow the procession. Where this building stands,jou had thegreat Batiste family, right acrossthe streetfrom the school. Sothat meant, with thatfamily, jou had music right there. That family is the root of the original Dirty Dozen, the kazoo band. Soall that was happening on this block. What happened, when those trees was taken down [on Claiborne], that was a gatheringplace —it was an extension of every house in the neighborhood,for all kinds of celebration andparticipation and rites ofpassage. Where the 1-10 camethrough, a lot of families had to move out. Sothat affected the observationandparticipation and total acceptance of the musical inheritance. In this area at one time or another, on every block, somebody couldplay something. So that was a serious intrusion. And all that affects the 125 mentality of folks. On occasions ofjoj and sorrow,jou do not have thatgroundswell of participation thatyou once had. That's a serious negative. I think it was basically racist, 'causepeople were helpless. I mean we did not know that wasgoing to happen. It was like,you would go to sleep at night, and when you wake up the next morning, the trees aregone, that kind of thing. Because there was an absence of power on this side, this black side, this neighborhood.Plus no respect for it. There's a lot of hypocrisy in terms of loving the music that waspopularized by Louis Armstrong, but they destroy the ingredients that made Armstrong—see, that's socrucial. One of the things that happens now,youngpeople don't have—it's something more important than a musical instrument—is the vision and the sound. Because if you don't have that vision, andyou don't have that sound, the instrument's not going to happen. The kids are notgoing topick up the boxes, they're notgoing topick up the bottles. That vision, and that sound, drivesyou towards trying to copy whatyou see with thosemen on the instruments. Butyou have to have the rituals of communityfor this kind of music. Once the rituals are threatened, then it affects the music. It's affected in many ways, even today. There's a certain kind of dignity that's dictated by occasion and moment—but once this linkage is broken, the kids lose thelessons of being appropriate to the moment. At funerals and even, in many ways, the social gatherings—what they call the secondlines,from the marching clubs—there was always certainprotocols ingrained by being a witness to them, as opposed to having a written script. Weknow the limits and the inner dynamics of certain things. Weknew theplacement , as it related toperson and participation. What kept the old order stable wasn'tjust having jobs but having each other. You had each other before ajob came into being. The sense of having each other—one thing about the city beingcalled the Big Easy: it was almost impossible, in the time I'm talking about,for anyone togo hungry. You had an extension of family that was beyond yourphysical dwelling, and the music is morepowerful thanjour economicplacement. We are not talking about the music in terms of the day of the funeral, or the day of a second line. The music here was daily, and all day. Onething I had enjoyed when I first went to New York: I stayed up oniioth Street, and when we came out in the morning, I heard all these drums; late that night, they were...


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