After a crazy flight mishap in Denver (me realizing I forgot to buy a plane ticket upon arrival at the airport), I made it to New Orleans just in time for the start of Krewe du Kanaval’s second year. I joined the Krewe as a founding member last year during my first time spending quality time in the city during the Mardi Gras season.
It was nice to find a group of similar people who has a deep love of music and heritage for this amazing city all decked out in Pink and Green the Krewe’s signature colors.
Krewe du Kanaval is a joint philanthropic venture between Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall that celebrates strong cultural ties and shared heritage between New Orleans and Haiti.
The two days of activities included a fabulous parade led by Preservation Hall Jazz Band and an evening ball that benefited KANPE, Butler and Chassagne’s Haitian-focused nonprofit, that took place later that evening.
Last year the Krewe raised over $30,000 for the Preservation Hall Foundation and KANPE.
The opening festivities took place this year on Thursday, February 21 with a pre-party takeover of Latrobe’s restaurant on Royal Street. As I entered, the party was well underway; I could see the expansion of the Krewe compared to last year’s more intimate affair.
Win Butler, also known as DJ Windows 98, was spinning tunes as I entered the main dance space downstairs. Cocktails and coconut King Cake (a New Orleans staple) were free-flowing.
I felt the festivities were going to be extra special this year. I left feeling rejuvenated and looking forward to the main event the next day.
On Friday, the day of the parade, Krewe members gathered at One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter to meet for drinks, apply the appropriate amount of glitter and prepare for a full day of fun with music. The forecast had threats of rain on the parade but luckily held off and a very warm spring day provided the perfect weather for the festivities.
At about 2 PM, The Northside Skull and Bones Gang started the walking parade through the French Quarter where everyone was encouraged to join in. Preservation Hall Jazz band, clad in hot pink jackets followed closely behind.
Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire also marched in the thick of the action with Butler shaking a giant maraca and chanting with his bull horn and smiling while and Chassagne twirled with a group of dancers in matching satin skirts.
The free outdoor festival in Congo Square features music and a parade blending New Orleans, Haitian and African traditions.
Unfortunately, Chef Leah Chase, who was designated to be Queen of Kanaval was unable to attend due to health reasons, so her son accepted on her behalf. DJ Jubilee was on hand and was elated to be crowned king of Kanaval.
Performers at Congo Square included Boukman Eksperyans, members of Haiti’s RAM, Papa Titos Sompa, percussionist Sequenon Kone, members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Breed Brass Band and local dance groups focused on Afro-Caribbean music and dance.
The whole Krewe took a final march around Louis Armstrong Park stopping for some inspiring words by Papa Titos Sompa about the ties of Haiti to the crescent city at the foot of the Louis Armstrong statue. The march continued as Preservation Hall performed on the steps of the theater in the park and a march back to Congo Square.
In the evening, a ball took place at The Civic Theater, which was headlined by Port-au-Prince’s Boukman Eksperyans. The group’s music fuses rock with Haitian rasin, incorporating drumming and folkloric music and traditions.
There also is music by Miami-based Haitian DJ Michael Brun, Diplo, and Jillionaire as well as Butler as DJ Windows 98. The party went well into the night with Diplo taking the stage after 1:30 AM.
It was a full day of celebrating New Orleans and Haiti and the perfect start to an amazing Mardi Gras carnival season.