“Wherever the African is, there is his religion” for he carries it to the fields, the beer party, a funeral ceremony, and even the house of parliament if he is a politician,” stated Kenyan-born historian and philosopher John Mbiti. Enslaved Africans inevitably brought their religious beliefs with them from their homelands to New Orleans, and they brought them to Congo Square on Sunday afternoons. 


Although it was illegal to practice any religion in the Louisiana colony other than Catholicism, they inevitably did so. What developed in general was a New World religion that blended tenets of Catholicism with beliefs and practices from several African nations. The new creolized religion was called Vodou, and drumming and dancing were integral parts of the ritual practice. While this creolized religion existed in Louisiana prior to 1809, Haitian immigrants from Cuba who entered that year, as well as those who entered the territory during earlier years, greatly reinforced the practice and strengthened the religious fervor of the city. 

More Information

Havana, Cuba, ca. 1957: Rhythms and Songs for the Orishas (Various Artists).
Music is one way that Cuban Lucumí (descendants of African slaves) have retained cultural ties to Africa. During the 19th century these descendants established cabildos, mutual aid and social societies based on African ethnic "nations" under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Church. These cabildos, found mainly in urban areas, were officially disbanded in the early 1900s but many continued on, providing an outlet for a Cuban Yoruba religion, combining Catholic and African-based religious elements. The Yoruba pantheon of gods called orishas provided the basis for these religious cults known as Santeria (also called Lucumí) and the drum ensembles that traditionally accompanied religious rituals in West Africa were modified into the Cuban batá drum trios heard in these recordings. (Marks 2001; Rodríguez 1998)

Traditional African Ritual Music of Guyana (Various Artists).
David Blair Stiffler's 1982 recordings, from the Guyana United Apostolitic Mystical Council and St. Matthews Apostolitic Mission, represent the African communities of Guyana. Integrating African animism and European Christian influences, the songs reflect the desire to maintain cultural ties to traditional beliefs in response to segregation and slavery (until 1834 under European rule) in Guyana. Religious rituals, marriage ceremonies, and ancestor worship are conveyed in traditional song, dance and drumming.

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti 2. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.

“Kongo Vodou”
Excerpt from the documentary, "The Living Gods of Haiti" by Maya Deren. Vodou Petwo/Kongo is popular in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its influences are mostly from the Kongo empire. The music and dance of the Kongo peoples have influenced all sorts of secular music in Dominican Republic

Lucumi- the Rumbero of Cuba. Tony Gatlif film. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South. (2:31) (6:13)

Candombe (History, maps, photos, links for CDs)
At the dawn of the 19th Century, Montevideo's (Uruguay) Establishment was deeply troubled by the existence of the candombes, which they indistinctly called tambo or tangó. They banned them and harshly punished their participants, considering the dances a threat to public morals. In 1808 the citizens of Montevideo requested that the governor repress these dances even more severely and "prohibit the tangós of the blacks." (from the book "Candombe" by Ruben Carambula). In Africa, Tambor and the person playing it are defined by the same word, Tambor.

Vodou Archive
Documents, photographs, videos pertaining to Haitian Vodou, Haitian Creole, and Haitian culture, University of Florida Digital Library Center

Evans, Freddi Williams. Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2011.

___. “African Spirituality and Religion in New Orleans’ Congo Square.” In Ashe' to Amen Exhibition Catalogue. New Orleans: Ashe Cultural Arts Center, 2015.

Long, Carolyn Morrow. Voudou, In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010--. Article published April 3, 2013

___. The Tomb of Marie Laveau n St. Louis Cemetary No.1in Fall 2015, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Web Exclusives

___. The Cracker Jack: A Hoodoo Drugstore in the “Cradle of Jazz in Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Spring