Two years after filling French Quarter streets for a David Bowie memorial parade, members of the modern rock band Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band have teamed up once again to launch a new, Haitian-inspired Carnival marching organization.
Krewe du Kanaval, named for the Haitian word for “carnival,” will embark from Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, a week before Mardi Gras.
The procession will stop for a free, three-hour block party at the Congo Square area of Armstrong Park, then proceed to the Toulouse Street music venue One Eyed Jacks for the post-parade Rhum and Drums Kanaval Ball.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, and several Haitian musicians are scheduled to perform at the ball.
Proceeds from krewe membership and ball tickets will benefit various charitable efforts in Haiti and New Orleans.
Krewe du Kanaval is the latest collaboration between Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe and Arcade Fire’s principals. Butler and Chassagne, who are married, moved to New Orleans in 2014 and have since become close friends with Jaffe and his wife, Jeanette.
Preservation Hall has accompanied Arcade Fire on tour, and the band made a surprise appearance during Arcade Fire’s headlining show at the UNO Lakefront Arena in September.
Their new Mardi Gras organization is an outgrowth of the two bands’ ongoing creative and cultural collaboration.
“For many years, Jeanette and I have wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras in a unique way that reflected our reverence for the spiritual side of this unique holiday,” Ben Jaffe said in a news release.
“We had wanted to do something in Congo Square that was inclusive and representative of modern New Orleans, of post-Katrina culture. Through Win and Regine, we discovered the deep cultural connections between Haiti and New Orleans. Krewe du Kanaval is our way of expressing our mutual love and respect for these two beautiful cultures.”
Chassagne was raised by Haitian immigrant parents in French-speaking Montreal. She founded a nonprofit called KANPE, named for a Haitian Creole word that means “to stand up,” to “stand with the most vulnerable Haitian families to achieve their financial autonomy.” The organization focuses on issues related to health, nutrition, entrepreneurship, agriculture, education and leadership.
Jaffe and other members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band have traveled to Haiti to see KANPE in action.
“Preservation Hall has been a family to us, and so we invited them to join us in Haiti to see KANPE’s work there,” Chassagne said in the release. “There is such a deep historical, cultural and spiritual link between New Orleans and Haiti … we decided to unite and start a krewe that would benefit underserved people in both places.”
In addition to KANPE, proceeds from Kanaval will benefit the local music education efforts of the Preservation Hall Foundation.
Membership in the krewe is limited to 150. Membership fees start at $1,000. Tickets to the ball only are $150.
The new organization’s steering committee is populated by a wide cross-section of local cultural figures, including zydeco/blues bandleader and Skull ‘n’ Bones marcher Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla, visual artist Brandan “BMike” Odums, Bamboula 2000 founder and African percussionist Luther Gray, burlesque artist Trixie Minx, filmmaker Lily Keber and former WWOZ-FM program director Dwayne Brashears, who is also the event’s producer.
Thanks to David Bowie, Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Carnival gridlock ar…
Butler, Chassagne and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band last teamed up for a parade on Jan. 16, 2016, when their memorial march in honor of David Bowie drew many more spectators than expected. Thousands of people lined the route through the French Quarter to the riverfront, shutting down traffic as Butler, Chassagne and the others reinvented Bowie tunes with brass instruments and a bullhorn.
In a September interview, Butler admitted that even he was startled by the size of the crowd.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was a little intense to play to thousands of people with no amplification, but it was really one of the more profound musical experiences of my life. If anyone deserved it, it was David.”
Go to www.kanaval.org for more information on Krewe du Kanaval.