Preservation Hall Jazz Band “Keep Your Head Up” video: exclusive


The main mission of A snorkel in Cuba, the documentary that follows Preservation Hall Jazz Band on a creative and spiritual pilgrimage to Cuba in 2015, was to celebrate the heritage and musical traditions shared between the island and their native New Orleans. In “Keep Your Head Up,” the new clip of their collaboration with Eme Alfonso off the film’s soundtrack, it takes the form of a giant dance party that fills the streets of Havana and the French Quarter.

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Alfonso takes the microphone while the jazz greats manage the groove in the clip, premiering the Billboard today (July 15), and as the crowd begins to twist and applaud to the beat of the weathered parquet floor of Preservation Hall, scenes from A snorkel in Cuba pop up to introduce some of the people the group has met on their travels. Vibrant movements are the perfect foil for the bilingual jam, and “Keep Your Head Up” gives heart to A snorkel in Cuba, and Preservation Hall’s close connection to Cuba and its people, a special spotlight.

“’Keep Your Head Up’ is a simple message with great meaning,” said Ben Jaffe, Preservation Hall’s creative director and band leader, of the track. (Jaffe is the man who, in particular, transported this snorkel to Cuba.) “Walk with your head held high, walk with pride, and live your life with grace and honor and with appreciation for all of humanity. Don’t let things break you, and don’t allow anyone or anything to lower your mind.

Alfonso was one of the people they met on their travels and went from a stranger to a friend almost immediately. “We met the wonderful Eme Alfonso at a performance in an incredible old factory that has been converted into a multidisciplinary art space called Fabrica Del Arte,” he recalls. “The same night we met, she came over and improvised some Spanish lyrics on the spot. Eme told me later that the words she sang have a deep meaning in Cuba, the translation is something like “walk with your head in front, don’t be so depressed, walk with joy”.

“In New Orleans… jazz and art are springing from the streets of this city and it is clear that there is a direct connection with Cuba, Havana and everyone who came before us,” adds Alfonso of the track. “Our grandparents are connected through these rhythms, dances, melodies and customs and this common history of our ancestors unites us all. New Orleans and Cuba are deeply linked. This collaboration is a conduit, a lesson to show our people and others around the world that we are all family and that art and music have the power to unite us.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicks off their summer tour at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival on July 28.

Watch “Keep Your Head Up” below.

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Henry R. Wright