Like thousands of his New Orleans neighbors, blues piano player and singer Nelson Lunding was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“There was eight feet of water in the street, three feet of water in the house, cars were underwater…my neighborhood didn’t exist,” Lunding recalls. “People became insane, angry, heartbroken—including myself.”
After more than a decade of performing in New Orleans with some off seasons in San Francisco, Lunding watched helplessly as the remnants of his life “turned to cheese” amid mold and mud.
With nothing to lose, Lunding accepted an invitation from a Mexican guitarist-friend to perform in beachfront Playa del Carmen, just south of Cancún.
“I came down and realized I could travel and make my way as a musician. I used the Yucatán as a springboard to get down here,” says Lunding, 38, who started on the piano at age 6 in his hometown of Yonkers, N.Y.
By 2009, Lunding was playing a circuit that included Playa del Carmen, Oaxaca and Lake Atitlán, which led to La Antigua and introductions to John, of Café No Sé, and Bruce, of Mesón Panza Verde. “They really opened doors for me and put me to work.”
Lunding is now a fixture at La Cueva de Panza Verde, Café No Se, Ocelot and Reilly’s 2000, with occasional gigs elsewhere. He has a CD of his piano music recorded live on an 1890s Steinway piano.
In the case of this musical talent, New Orleans’ loss is Antigua’s gain. “I’ve been here 15 months, and I like it,” Lunding says.