Street Musicians – Tanya and Dorise

One of the best things about New Orleans is the omnipresent live music. In the French Quarter, it would be impossible to go a whole day without seeing live music. Between the music clubs, the parades and second lines, the Louisiana Music Factory CD store, the festivals and the buskers, the city is always pulsating and singing it’s song. The roots of soul, R&B, gospel, jazz, blues, rock, funk, zydeco and even some country start on this dirt, giving voice to its soil’s story. Quite simply – New Orleans is music. And the truth is, most of it starts in the streets with the people who perform behind a pail, an upturned hat or an open guitar case hoping for some financial gratitude.

Tanya and Dorise are two of those street performers, people who jockey to earn one of the prime spots like in front of the Foot Locker sign at the corner of Bourbon and Canal (where Rebirth Brass Band used to play) or in front of Rouses Market at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. Sometimes, just picking up some yogurt and toilet paper, we find Tanya and Dorise playing as we enter the store. If you don’t live in NOLA, I’m guessing they don’t have live music in front of your grocery store.

The violinist and guitarist respectively met in New York over 10 years ago through a mutual friend and say, “Music definitely brought us here.” Tanya, originally from Taiwan, would appear to be the inspiration for Treme‘s Annie character (Lucia Micarelli). She is obviously a virtuoso who can knows her instrument thoroughly and intimately. She could play with any number of orchestras and make a living, maybe she could even be a star, but she seems extraordinarily happy to have the freedom to play pop and rock and R&B in addition to classical.

Connecticut native Dorise plays a hollow-neck Blackbird classical 6-string made of carbon fiber and kevlar. Apparently, she inspired Casio to add a guitar strap to their keyboard synthesizers. I’m guessing that, like many NOLA musicians, she’s an innovator. What I do know is that she adds the beat to their percussion-free duets. In this Youtube video (which actually has a pretty good camera person), you truly understand what rests on Dorise’s shoulders – the folk, rhythm, punch and personality she adds to the team. It’s also one of the rare times someone captured her smiling face on camera. At the 2:20 mark, Tanya shows off the violin’s ability to tell a story through a multitude of sounds.

City streets are unpredictable places and you never know who’s going to join in like the “over served” man who happens by the duo playing Eleanor Rigby and can’t resist joining in for a line or two. Or when DJ iLLEST beat-boxed for 4 songs including one from Mariah Carrey, a Lil Wayne tune (at 3:38), a raucous version of the theme from Beverly Hills Cop (6:52 – my favorite) and a surprise ending of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean (8:00) with woo woo’s supplied by the growing crowd.

Many bands here are characterized by being a gumbo of genres like funk/brass/jazz or blues/rock/soul. Tanya and Dorise show their versatility through their song selections more than through their style. You are just as likely to catch them playing Led Zeppelin’s rock anthem Stairway to Heaven (love when it gets to fast part), or a beautiful rendition of  Earth, Wind & Fire’s That’s The Way Of The World as you are to find them playing Bizet’s opera, Carmen (at :15 second mark – the violin is amazing at :50), or The Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down To Georgia.

Perhaps my favorite video is the one shot in front of Cafe du Monde in 2009 by a tourist, Hal Jacobs. He includes shots of the beauty of the city and its unique people, culture and places as Tanya and Dorise play Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved.

If you haven’t gotten enough of the videos, here’s their takes on the iconic Freebird, the soulful Ain’t No Sunshine (when she’s gone), the classic Yesterday, the sedate certainty of Rocket Man (fuzzy video) and the ominous Hotel California (shaky video).

And for one last taste of the streets of New Orleans, here’s a trailer for a documentary called Street Saints (AKA Crescent City). he 2 minute clip certainly captures the soul of the city set to songs by “Treme Prince” Glen David Andrews and, you guessed it, Tanya and Dorise. There are even a few shots of my favorite second liner- DancingMan504. To see the entire 15 minute documentary made by the Florida State University students (Tavner Murphy and Sydney Smith), use the password “saintstreet.”

On any given day, you never know what you’re going to see and hear in New Orleans but sometimes you’re lucky enough to be walking through the French Quarter when Tanya and Dorise are making their music. Of playing in NOLA, Tanya says, “We just kinda show up and play and hope the music speaks for itself.” This city is bursting at the seams with talent so no matter who entertains you on your strolls through the city, remember that they put roofs over their heads and food in their bellies with the dollars dropped in their pails, upturned hats and open guitar cases. Show your gratitude!

(photos from Tanya and Dorise’s Facebook)

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8 Comments

Filed under Concerts, Culture, free events and lagniappe

8 responses to “Street Musicians – Tanya and Dorise

  1. Marjorie Egarian

    Just got back from a short trip to NOLA and was lucky to catch Tanya & Dorise on Royal St. I videotaped what I saw/heard (There is a House in New Orleans by The Animals) and have been enjoying it so much. Just found your article and am just thrilled to read about them and see the videos you’ve included. Now I just have to figure out how to add mine so others can enjoy it. Thanks so much, I’m blown away by these musicians.

  2. Hey this is Tav Murphy here, director, editor, and photographer of the FSU documentary “Street Saints.” Thanks for mentioning our project in your article. We are big fans of Tanya and Dorise! The film has in fact been finished and submitted to film festivals around the country. Would appreciate it if you can edit this link to watch it into your article. https://vimeo.com/56520721
    Use the password “saintstreet” Thanks!!!

  3. mendel lee

    he first time i ever saw tanya was in front of Cafe Du Monde, and then later i didn’t put together that she was the same person who i knew was playing first violin for the Tulane Orchestra. I had chatted with her about trying to play on a piece for one of my spring concerts, but at the time she was too busy.

    A year or so later i saw her down in the quarter again and i made the connection that i hadn’t before. She recognized me and during one of her breaks, we caught up. It was great to see her feel so passionate about what she was doing as a street performer. She definitely has the skills to be a professional orchestra member if she kept up with that side of her talent.

    Hearing those two is always pretty neat and is definitely inspiring.

  4. Kris Colabella McDevitt

    I always love reading your posts, but this one was particularly inspiring. The background about Tanya and Dorise really helped to describe the passion of these musicians, and why they do what they do. I whole heartedly support the need to tip the street musicians, and am glad you are spreading the word, because I often think that this type of entertainment is taken for granted as part of the “New Orleans Experience.”

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