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.
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)