Who's playing this year's tricentennial-themed Cultural Exchange Pavilion? Some of the usual suspects, but many you didn't expect.

sona jobarteh photo
Sona Jobarteh

So far, the New Orleans Tricentennial has been a subtle affair. It has produced a logo, two books (and I’m proud to have contributed a chapter on Jazz Fest to one of them, New Orleans & The World: 1718-2018 Anthology), and it helped convince the WWE to bring Wrestlemania back to New Orleans. The list of events at 2018nola.com map out a year-long series of opportunities to engage with New Orleans, but there’s no centerpiece, and many events aren’t unique to the Tricentennial including French Quarter Festival, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue’s 4th annual Treme Threauxdown (at the Saenger Saturday), the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, and Luna Fête. The fireworks show that will close Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6, is also listed as a Tricentennial event.

That unspectacular program makes it easy to be wary of NOLA 300 as the theme for Jazz Fest’s Cultural Exchange Pavilion. (Side note: Who are we going to exchange culture with?) Could we end up with the city’s most familiar performers doing very familiar things? After all, tradition is a very New Orleans thing and a very Jazz Fest thing, so you could imagine a path being worn from the Economy Hall Tent to the Cultural Exchange Pavilion, but that’s not the case. We will get Kermit playing Armstrong, Henry Butler playing Jelly Roll Morton, and Lena Prima playing Louis Prima, but the pavilion focuses on the cultures that shaped New Orleans’ music as much as New Orleans' music itself, and half of the artists representing those cultures are from out of the country. There are Canadian and Irish folk groups, Haitian dancers, and African bands in addition to Bamboula 2000. 

Here are some of the out-of-town highlights from the Tricentennial-focused Cultural Exchange Pavilion:

Kid Kreyol and the Creole Dance Ensemble of Haiti

Sona Jobarteh and Band from Gambia

Vishtén of Canada


Socks in the Frying Pan

Santiman and Garifuna Generation

Jupiter & Okwess

The East Pointers from Canada