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What is a Second Line?

Cristian Colbert - Wednesday, June 10, 2015
When I first moved to New Orleans I was introduced to a friend of a co-worker who is a film producer. He asked me one day if I wanted to audition for a promotional campaign about New Orleans’ cultural heritage. I thought well sure, that sounds like fun! Then he asked me if I knew what a second line was. Not wanting to sound like a newbie I responded yes, of course. The audition would involve me participating in a second line without actually knowing the organizers. This happened years before smart phones, so googling it on my way home was not an option. Clearly I had my work cut out for me before I could show my face at this audition. So later that night I finally swallowed my pride and asked another friend who I was pretty sure wouldn’t make fun of my ignorance.


A second line she said can happen and often does when a brass band takes to the street to march for everything from a jazz funeral to jazz fest. The band is the first line in the parade and the people who dance behind the band become the second line. The dancing often involves waving a handkerchief in the air and some dancers even have very ornately decorated umbrellas.


The origin of the second line is synonymous with a jazz funeral parade and began in the tribes of Africa. When Africans were captured or kidnapped in their homeland and brought to America as slaves they were determined to preserve this tradition of burying their loved ones with a musical sendoff. That eventually became the jazz funeral and second line parade. In New Orleans they were able to continue their heritage and pass it along to future generations.


I was not chosen for the commercial but I did give it my best shot that day. The good news is I did get the opportunity to be a part of several second line parades when I lived in New Orleans (one after the Saints won the Super bowl comes to mind, Who Dat!) It's an extraordinary experience when strangers on the street become friends in the moment through the power of music and dance.

This deeply rooted New Orleans’ tradition of brass bands and second lines is just one of the things that inspired the producers of New Orleans Live to share the music and culture of this unique city with the world. This fall New Orleans Live debuts and the hour long live music television show will have you grabbing your handkerchief and dancing along at home. Each week the show will feature three musical acts including brass bands, performing that indigenous sound so often heard marching through the streets of New Orleans.

To learn more about New Orleans Live , log on to To help support our efforts to produce the show go to http://

Robin Dallafior
New Orleans Live
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New Orleans Live is a  music performance television show featuring local, regional & some nationally known musical artists.