From the 28th April to the 7th May New Orleans will be hosting their annual Jazz Festival which will see top musicians come together to celebrate the dynamic Louisiana music. It’s a tradition that has long since been going for over 35 years. Jazz has been a huge part of New Orleans culture after being integrated into society by African slaves. Whilst the music is a happy and cherished pastime, Jazz in Louisiana has also been integrated into funeral progressions.
The upbeat tones were used to guide souls to heaven and celebrate their ‘final release from the bounds of Earthly life.’ This, in part related to the harsh and cruel lifestyle of slaves. Even until today Jazz Funerals have continued on and New Orleans has become known for their musical input into life and death.
Jazzing up a funeral
As mentioned the Jazz Funeral was incorporated as a way to celebrate a life once led and the escape of slavery. Thankfully times have a changed and slavery has primarily been wiped out, meaning jazz funerals are all about celebrating life through music, singing and dancing.
The style of funeral begins at the deceased home with musicians playing sombre tones. Together both musicians and loved ones follow the hearse to the church or final place of rest, all the while playing sorrowful music. Once the service is over and the deceased is laid to rest the celebrations begin. The music goes from sombre to jubilant as they make their way to the reception. Both family and friends lead a parade with onlookers welcome to join in as they celebrate a life well lived.
The dynamic and buoyant sounds of the saxophone, trumpets, tambourines and singing fill the streets and the jubilant tunes echo through the night as they salute a life happily lived life.
Such affairs have been highly popular since the 20th century and continue to be in high demand. The process of jubilantly celebrating their loved one’s life and their journey to a new world have become a symbolic funeral tradition. It is a tradition that has been firmly woven into the Louisiana culture and one that has lasted over a century.
Highest of honours
Jazz Funerals have been a part of Louisiana lives for years but one of the most memorable ceremonies was held back in 2006 following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina is one of the most destructive and costliest hurricanes that has ever hit America with New Orleans being one of the most affected areas. Louisiana, in particular, sustained a vicious attack that killed over 1,700 people, the majority of which were senior citizens. The severity of the disaster wasn’t one that was expected to result in a catastrophic aftermath.
To commemorate the first anniversary Louisiana Mayor, Ray Nagain and Lt Gen. Russel Honorè organised a Jazz Funeral in honour of the 1,700 citizens that died. Together they led the Parade through the streets with the Louisiana community following and playing tribute to friends and family members that died.
Jazz music is a huge part of life that is used to bring happiness even at the worst times. These traditions have led to New Orleans being dubbed as the birthplace of Jazz.
Bringing New Orleans to The UK
Due to the paramount growth in popularity, the New Orleans Jazz Funeral tradition has seemingly travelled over the pond.
London based band ‘The Mississippi Swamp Dogs Jazz Band’ are bringing the lively and exuberant New Orleans Jazz culture to Britain. They hold similar principles to New Orleans of mourning and celebration. They give a sombre sendoff right up until the end of the ceremony and after that, the celebration begins. Once again cherishing a life well lived.
Given it’s a British take on a New Orleans tradition the band plays jazzed up songs such as When The Saints Go Marching In, Didn’t He Ramble and After You’ve Gone.
First beginning as a hobby The Mississippi Swamp Dogs Jazz Band turned their passion into a highly regarded service according to their customers. The celebration of life is now outweighing mourning in British society with jubilant celebrations becoming more popular. The Mississippi Swamp Dogs Jazz Band are paving their way through the funeral industry as sombre traditions become more and more extinct.
As the traditions go marching on
With the multitude of faiths, cultures, and values evolving in British society the traditional funeral etiquette is changing with the sombre affair being ditched. The idea of celebrating life even in death has started to become the mindset. Over 60% of Brits would opt for a celebration of life in place of a traditional funeral.
Decade-year-old traditions are becoming more and more extinct with Brits favouring personalised, unique and cheery funerals. Much of which is deriving from other faiths and cultures who have their own funeral traditions and ideologies which have influenced British opinions.
A report by Damsons Future Planning found that one in five people would decide against a black hearse and only 7% of people would want their loved ones to dress in black. Whilst over 9% of Brits would encourage loved ones to host an after party.
The idea of celebration instead of mourning seems to be the consensus which in part is down to the climb in social status and lifestyles. Life is more comfortable and past luxuries such as TVs, cars, housing etc. have become readily available for the working class. Such factors have led to happier and well-lived lives that are worth celebrating.
Despite cremation being the most popular funeral option with 74% of Brits preferring to be cremated, other types of funerals are rising in popularity. The report by Damsons found that woodland burials have increased by 9% while sea and home burials have increased by 3%. As more alternatives come to light the sombre funeral declines in popularity.
Planning your celebratory goodbye
With celebrations high and a rising preference conveying your wishes to your loved ones is essential especially if you want to incorporate the New Orleans way of life.
To ensure such a feat, the creation of a will is key to stipulating your wishes. To further ensure that a Jazz Band will be incorporated into your funeral you could invest in a funeral plan. With an affordable payment plan that fits within your budget and is paid within a set number of years, you can guarantee a funeral that reflects your life.
With the ability to design your own funeral and also pay for your funeral in advance. Given the rising costs of funerals, it may also be a wise investment for the future. In the last decade, funeral prices have risen by 80% according to research by Bath University. Whilst cost is a huge factor to consider the arrangements of your final affair are equally on par.
Given that it’s the final event that you will attend, a Funeral Plan enables you to design a farewell that truly celebrates your life in an interesting and lively manner. Within minutes you can plan a funeral that leaves a lasting legacy and imprint on your loved ones.
With a Funeral Plan, you can decide how much Jazz and finesse as you desire.
How jazz influenced celebratory funerals
In the midst of sadness, New Orleans, the ‘birthplace’ of Jazz brought about the celebration of life rather than the mourning of the deceased.
Through music, the Louisiana folk have managed to create a funeral that is both memorable and a joyous occasion that loved ones can cherish. It enables them to find solace in a time of heartache.
The Jazz Funeral has become a reputable service that many hold for their loved ones and has even travelled to the UK. Starting with a slow and respectful to a buoyant parade a person can have the farewell they deserve.
While the New Orleans Jazz Festival taking place from Friday 28th April to Sunday 7th April isn’t funeral focused, it does celebrate Jazz. A form of music that is integrated into many people’s lives and their deaths alike.