The city's history plays a huge part
The reason New Orleans stands in the same cultural category some entire states and nations, Mayfield tells us, is because of its unique history with the slave trade. “Africans had a tremendous amount of freedom in new Orleans,” Mayfield says, “They were the first true Free People of Color, and that’s what makes the music. For instance, in Trinidad, the slave owners were very restrictive over drums, so musicians had to make drums out of steel cans (hence: the steel drum). New Orleans music presented such an opportunity of freedom that the first, indigenous jazz sound in the 1800s was allowed to develop freely."
So does the cultural mix
“Native Americans gave us the tom toms as the first sort of drumset, so New Orleans was the birthplace of the modern drumset," Mayfield says. "Add that to the French, Spanish, and English-speaking settlers, plus the Africans performing as free people, and you get a really democratic experience that plays out in the music."
He goes on: "It plays out culturally, it plays out in the food, you can taste it in the gumbo, it plays out in how we celebrate Mardi Gras. There’s no experience like it outside of New Orleans, because of all the other-world influences that were allowed to stay.”