A costume typical of the Mardi Gras Indians.
A costume typical of the Mardi Gras Indians. Josh Jackson
Hurricane Katrina dealt musicians in New Orleans a temporary blow, but DJ David Kunian — host of The Kitchen Sink at New Orleans community radio station WWOZ — says not only is the music back on track, but that 2010 has been a banner year.
"Let's Go Get 'Em" by 101 Runners, a Mardis Gras Indian funk band, is one of Kunian's favorite New Orleans songs of the year. Mardis Gras Indians have a long history in the city. Their costumes feature ostrich plumes and intricate beadwork, and they honor the connections between Native Americans and African-Americans that trace to the beginning of New Orleans' history. Traditionally, Mardis Gras Indians have performed percussion and chants, but in the 1970s, they began combining it with funk music.
"It took off and has been some of the greatest funk ever recorded," Kunian tells NPR's Audie Cornish.
He also showcases "Double It" by Galactic, featuring transvestite rapper Big Freedia. Kunian describes it as part of the subgenre of New Orleans music called "sissy" bounce.
"It's bounce music," he says, "but it's called 'sissy' bounce music because it is performed by transvestites. It's basically rapping over something called the Triggerman beat ... The beat is such that people dance in a provocative way."
Like much in New Orleans, music is slowly recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Although music has always been a vital part of the city's culture, Kunian says many residents only started to realize how important it is until after Katrina.
"When you almost lose it, you kind of realize what you've been taking for granted," he says.