New Orleans Voices: Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
This is a short video interview with the musician Troy Andrews (better known as "Trombone Shorty") that takes place in the Treme (pronounced "trim-may") neighborhood where he grew up. Treme is the oldest black neighborhood in the United States and is one of the most culturally-rich zones in the city of New Orleans. I would be tempted to say that it is THE area most responsible for creating many of the things that New Orleans is famous for but I wouldn't want to start a fight with those folks in a couple other parts of the city *cough*Uptown*cough*. :P
This video is REALLY special because it contains footage of a phenomenon that you will in all likelihood never had the opportunity to see unless you came here at just the right time and, now that so much of the city is empty, may not last beyond this generation. As Shorty takes the camera-woman on a small walking tour of the Treme district, he introduces her to the remnants of the community, those who managed to stay or return to the city and neighborhood they love. They also encounter one of the Mardi Gras Indians from his neighborhood named Tyrone Miller.
I got a good laugh when Shorty tried to cajole Miller into giving the woman just a little taste of his skills and Miller flat out told him no twice with a completely straight face that didn't seem the least bit apologetic. However, after Shorty asked a few more times and Miller sized up the camera-woman he finally relented and performed an Indian classic call and response chant called "Shoo, fly! Don't bother me!". The name reveals the refrain which would be repeated by the audience in between short stanzas performed by the Indian. The refrain provides a framework for this chant which has been made into countless versions as each performer creates short rhyming lines that are improvised each time. The performers often use these improvisations to hail listeners, tell short tales, engage in good-natured boasting about his skills, and/or praise his particular neighborhood or tribe. Even though outsiders might not know them, these folks are local heroes. If you listen carefully, you can also hear two more Indian chants on this video, "Hu-ta-nay" during the introduction and "Shallow Water" while the credits roll at the end.
My little brother went on his first tour around the world right before he started high schoo with Trombone Shorty. I remember Shorty from when he was a skinny little phenom with a powerful set of lungs. He was blasting folks away with his skills back then too. Even though this guy has taken many trips to many different countries where his music is much more appreciated than in the United States, Shorty has chosen to keep New Orleans as his home. I can't do anything but admire a cat like that. If this city has any chance of retaining it's African-American culture, it's going to depend on the tenacious artists like Troy.
The video below is of Shorty playing a solo at a Jazz festival in Ascona, Switzerland in 2006.