Second line band and dance

The second line was developed first as a circle dance in West Africa and the tradition traveled with slaves that were brought to New Orleans. These transplanted people, held as slaves by the French colonists, performed their traditional circle dances at Congo Square on Sundays with only drum accompaniment.

After emancipation, African and African-American circle dance slowly blended with the brass band parade traditions of the European-Americans.Though the second line started as a circle dance in Africa, over many years it straightened out into a second line dance with a brass band for funeral processions and parades. African-American Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs were organized. Members, by paying dues, would enjoy such things as community social gatherings, health and funeral benefits and public parades. These pleasure clubs were instrumental in keeping the second line brass band tradition alive. Second line parades are now firmly entrenched in the rich heritage of New Orleans.

Once only seen in New Orleans, recently, second line brass bands popped up around the entire USA...even Boston MA with the Hot Tamale Brass Band.

The term “Second Line” comes from the traditions of the New Orleans jazz funeral. The “First Line” is the the deceased, immediate family, close friends and the second line brass band, leaving in a procession from a house of worship or a funeral home to arrive at the cemetery. During the procession to the burial grounds, a brass band performs spirituals and dirges. After the body is laid to rest or “cut loose”, the tenor changes in the ceremony. The band plays faster, maybe a spiritual played in a second line brass band rhythm or a popular happier tune.

This is when onlookers jump in and share the celebration for the life of the one who has “passed on”. The people that join in, get behind the band to dance and follow the music are referred to as the second line. The reason that they are called the SECOND LINE is because they are behind the first line. The style of dance can seem happy or wild and crazy, when they strut or twirl an umbrella or wave a handkerchief through the air after the funeral. Though it may seem disrespectful to the uninitiated, it is instead a celebration of the life of the deceased.

In my opinion, it's a great way to show the deceased that we can "maintain" and still experience the joys in life even after a loved one has “passed over”.

So SECOND LINE everybody, while you still can !

You’ve seen them in movies like the James Bond classic “Live and Let Die”, when a funeral is passing by a secret agent asks a bystander…“Who’s funeral is it” ?… Bystander: ”Your’s”…Agent getting stabbed: ”ARGHHHH” !

In old times a brass band would follow a horse-drawn hearse to the cemetery playing dirges. When the body was “Cut loose”, the procession exited the burial grounds with the second line and a social aid and pleasure society / club band playing happy tunes, celebrating the joy of the life of the deceased and of course joyful that the second liners themselves were still alive.

The expenses for the event were paid by the New Orleans social aid societies mainly created for neighborhood based funeral costs and insurance coverage. Members contributed, so their family would be “covered” in the case of illness or death. The social clubs would be involved in throwing parties, paying for funerals, and organizing charitable projects.

Social aid and pleasure societies or clubs in the modern era are now mostly for ceremony and community events instead of health and burial insurance. A Social Aid And Pleasure Society organizes most of the Second Lines. One can spot the social aid and pleasure club members easily in the non-funeral parades, they wear matching colorful outfits, and participate in the First Line or Main Line of the parade.

Funerals in New Orleans In Regards To Tourists

For a tourist, I advise you to “Just Watch”.  If you can’t resist…Look around for hints from locals before you start waving your arms around and boogying.

Wedding Second Lines

Jump into a wedding second line by all means.

Remember to stay behind the wedding party.

Don’t be shaking your booty in front of the bride if you don't know her.

Probably not even if you do !


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Hot Tamale Brass Band - Second Line Parade In Boston MA

Hot Tamale Brass Band

History Of The Second Line