Throughout the 18th and 19th century, enslaved Africans in New Orleans gathered to socialize, dance, and play music together for a few hours each Sunday just outside of the then-city bounds, in Congo Square.
Many historians of New Orleans believe that the Congo Square gatherings were instrumental in keeping African music and dance alive in New Orleans, and therefore in American music generally. While city leaders later tried to suppress these gatherings, the spirit of Congo Square has endured. The first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which celebrates the vastly diverse musical traditions of and inspired by New Orleans, was held there in 1970.
Echoes of Congo Square pays homage to the music of New Orleans, especially as the birthplace of jazz and the fertile musical ground out of which so much of American music has grown.