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Cooks and Musicians, Evacuated From New Orleans, Have No Plans to Return


For many decades, music and food made New Orleans a prime destination for people around the world. But after Hurricane Katrina, jazz and gumbo -- so much rooted in the African-American culture -- spread with its people among many states. Among the thousands of people who left New Orleans, and now have no plans to return, were cooks and musicians. Producer Zulima Palacio found some of them in Austin, Texas. Melinda Smith narrates.

Cyril Neville and his wife Danielle are doing what they have loved best for several decades: she cooks gumbo and red beans, and they both sing. Except that now they do it in Austin, Texas. They just bought a house here and have no plans to move back to their native New Orleans.

"I have been here for two and a half months and I have worked more in two months here than what I worked in two years in New Orleans, so I'm doing O.K."

Cyril says that this is not just happening in Austin. New Orleans musicians are now playing with bands in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and even in Arizona. Over time, their music will combine with the local music and will start a new trend.

"I'd say this, that gumbo has spilled into the chili and any thing can come out of that now. On stage, with me being from New Orleans and Papa Mali from Austin -- it's already happening; now we have a base player from Austin."

Nearly 14,000 people were evacuated from New Orleans to Austin. Austin City Manager, Toby Hammett Futrell, says that about half of that number will stay.

"Certain percentage of those are going to be New Orleans chefs and New Orleans musicians and we're going to end up with better food and better music and a more diverse culture."

Cyril Neville is one of the four Neville brothers, all well known for their music. He says that is one of the reason he has been welcomed in Texas after the hurricane. But many other musicians continue to struggle. New Orleans was in trouble long before the storm hit, he says, but he and his friends know that their culture will never die.

"The music and the food is definitely going to keep New Orleans alive. The spirit of the African-American culture that made New Orleans a place where people wanted to come from around the world to experience, is now spread out over and a lot of it is now in Austin."

While New Orleans may have lost some of its finest musicians, Austin and other cities will benefit from their creativity.

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