It's easy to get carried away at Jazz Fest. Rosalie "Lady Tambourine" Washington is known for it. Tambourine in hand, she became a presence at many sets by local bands, but her flair and enthusiasm actually got her kicked out of the Gospel Tent. "Yes," confirms Washington, "I used to play with every act, but I was getting all the attention, and all the pictures were being taken of me, so they put me off. Now I play in the Gospel Tent by invitation only."
As you may see, however, she still has an open invitation with many of the brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians at the fest and around town.
Washington had a revelation when she was 5 years old while sitting in a church service at the First Church of God In Christ in Denham Springs. She saw her godmother sitting by the window singing the hymn "Power, Lord" and playing along with a tambourine. "Suddenly," Washington says, "I saw fire coming from the tambourine, and I thought, "Lord, I wish I could play like that.'"
She played in assorted choirs and appeared at her first Jazz Fest in 1993 with her friends, the Banks Family. "When I was leaving, they said, "Tell that lady with the tambourine to come on up to the front.' I played again and they started hollering. One of the organizers said, "Can you play with another choir?' I said, "Sure.' I was having fun."
This year, Washington has her own set in the Gospel Tent, but then it's back to her supporting role. "I'll go play with Vavavoom at the Spotted Cat, and then go by the Apple Barrel and play there and then over to Snug Harbor to play with Charmaine Neville. I love music."
- After years supporting and enjoying gospel choirs, Rosalie Washington has her own Jazz Fest set (1:40 p.m. Friday, April 25, AIG Gospel Tent).