2018 Congo Square Rhythms Festival

Mar 3–4, 2018
Saturday, March 3, and Sunday, March 4, 2018 - 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. both days
Armstrong Park
701 N. Rampart Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
Admission: Free

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The 11th Annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival
March 3-4
Armstrong Park
Free Admission

Mardi Gras Indians, African dance, brass bands, luscious jazz, soul-funk, Latin jazz and West African highlife – all these are in store for music fans at the 11th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival, presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation March 3-4 in Armstrong Park.

Celebrating the New Orleans traditions that spring from the African diaspora, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival brings a joyful noise to the spot that those in the know consider the birthplace of American music.

Starting in the 18th Century and lasting for well over 100 years, Congo Square (or Place Congo) was where enslaved Africans and free people of color were permitted to gather on Sundays – enabling them to carry on their ancestral traditions of drumming and dance. It was also a gathering place and market square, quite famous around the world and, since 1993, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is arguably the location where African culture was implanted in the New World, influencing all of the jazz, gospel, blues and rock that put New Orleans on the map of the world’s most musically important cities.

The Congo Square Rhythms Festival combines live music, a large arts market and a Soul Food Court with special events to create a uniquely immersive experience.

Our annual Mardi Gras Indian “battle” is always a favorite – with tribes from various neighborhoods gathering in the center of the square for a show of cultural unity (and a great photo op). This year’s participants are the legendary Wild Magnolias (representing Uptown), the Young Maasi Hunters (Downtown) and the Mohawk Hunters (the West Bank).

This festival is also is the location of our Class Got Brass competition. Now in its seventh year, Class Got Brass challenges Louisiana middle school and high schools to form traditional New Orleans brass bands, which then perform for an all-star panel of judges. By providing the participating schools with gift certificates for instruments or other supplies – the top prize is $10,000 – Class Got Brass is one of many ways the Jazz & Heritage Foundation supports arts education in the school system while promoting New Orleans’ traditional culture.

African dance is always a highlight of the Congo Square Rhythms Festival. This year, we present a collaborative work of four local African dance troupes performing a piece called "Bricks: From the River to the Bayou," which interprets Louisiana history through dance. We will showcase a sneak preview of a longer work that will be unveiled later in the year as part of the celebration of New Orleans’ tricentennial.

Both days of the festival open with our traditional African drum circle and dance workshop – everyone is invited to participate. Our many special guests this year include: master percussionist Bill Summers, perhaps best known for his work with the Headhunters and Los Hombres Calientes; the Cuban percussionist Alexey Marti; and the drummer Weedie Braimah, who is from Ghana by way of St. Louis and is considered one of the world’s youngest masters of the djembe drum. 

African music will be well represented at the festival with a performance by the Fufu Allstars, a group led by guitarist Sam Dickey that merges New Orleans jazz with authentic West African highlife music. The Cuban percussionist Alexey Marti will lead a quintet that explores the music of his native Havana through a New Orleans lens.

Quiana Lynell, winner of the 2017 International Sarah Vaughan vocal jazz competition, will perform with her group, as will the band Water Seed, whose “future funk” sound is awesomely evocative of Earth, Wind & Fire.

And don’t forget the brass bands. The Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band, plus local favorites the Hot 8 and the Pinettes, all will perform.


Saturday, March 3
11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.     Drum Circle
11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.     Bamboula 2000
1:00 p.m. to 2 p.m.             Fufu Allstars
2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.        Alexey Marti Quintet
3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.        Mardi Gras Indian Battle
4:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.        Quiana Lynell
5:15 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.        Water Seed
6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.        Rebirth Brass Band

Sunday, March 4
11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.   Drum Circle
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.     Sneak Preview African Dance Performance: "Bricks: From the River to the Bayou" - a collaborative dance interpretation of New Orleans history in celebration of the city's tricentennial.
• "Katalis and Seremoni: Dutty Boukman, Cecile Fatima and Charles Deslondes," performed by the Chakra and Omosede Dance Theater
• "Fly With It!," performed by Tekrema Dance Theater
• "Mali," performed by the Culu and N’Kafu African Dance Ensembles
• "Indigenous," performed by Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective
1 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.          N’Fungola Sibo African Dance Company
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.      Pinettes Brass Band
3:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.      Class Got Brass Contest
5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.      Hot 8 Brass Band

New Orleans Soul Food
We’ll have five great food vendors – including recent graduates of our Catapult Fund business accelerator program - offering a mix of classic New Orleans dishes and food from the Caribbean. The Praline Connection, LaDelyo’s Café, Cocoa & Cream Catering and Boswell’s Jamaican Cuisine will be there, as will several dessert providers such as Loretta’s Authentic Pralines and Li’l Dustin’s Italian Ice. For the complete list of food vendors and their menus, see here.

Arts Market
If you’re looking for beautiful, hand-made artworks and crafts by local artisans, be sure to check out our arts market. We’ll have more than two dozen vendors, offering fine art, photography, jewelry, clothing and housewares.

Kids Activities
This year, we're ramping up our Kids Area with lots of new activities, games and entertainment for the young ones.

On Saturday, March 3, parking is available for a fee ($5 for 10 hours) at Basin Street Station, 501 Basin Street. On Sunday, March 4, parking is free in the large lot of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre (enter via Basin Street).

Bike Valet
Our friends at Bike Easy, which promoted bicycle ridership in the city, will organize a free bike valet – so you can ride to the festival and stash your wheels easily and safely.

ADA Accessibility
For our guests who use wheelchairs, we will have a number of accommodations.

We will have wheelchair drop-off areas on Rampart Street (at the St. Ann Street Gate) and also in the parking lot near the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of the Performing Arts (enter via the Basin Street Gate).

Our wheelchair-accessible toilets will be kept locked for your comfort. To obtain the key or combination for the locks, please visit any of our information booths located at the park entrances, or check with the staff at our official T-Shirt Booth.

All of our food booths will have counter heights of no more than 32 inches. And we will have an area reserved only for wheelchairs near the sound booth in front of the stage.

Keep The Festival Safe and Free: No Outside Food, Beverages or Pets
Like all of our events, the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival is completely free and open to the public - part of the community investment made by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Donations, however, are gratefully accepted. If you would like to support the Foundation and help keep this event free, please make the tax-deductible contribution of your choice here.

PLEASE: Except for those with small children or dietary restrictions, please do not bring outside food or beverages to the event - no coolers are permitted.

We realize that Armstrong Park is usually open to pets. But for the safety and comfort of our large audience, we ask that you respect your neighbors and leave your companion animals at home. Thank you.

The Congo Square Rhythms Festival is produced and presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The Foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment. For more on what we do, please visit www.jazzandheritage.org.


Click the links below to download documents.

2018 Congo Square Rhythms Festival Food Vendor Menus

Congo Square Rhythms Festival Archive:

2019's Line-up and Festival Details
2018's Line-up and Festival Details
2017's Line-up and Festival Details
2016's Line-up and Festival Details
2015's Line-up and Festival Details
2014's Line-up and Festival Details
2013's Line-up and Festival Details
2012's Line-up and Festival Details
2010's Line-up and Festival Details
2009's Line-up and Festival Details

Check out what else we do.

2018 Congo Square Rhythms Festival gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors:

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.