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MUSICAL GUMBO! . Music, Dance and Culture from the Melting Pot of Southern Louisiana Chere Weiss Lower Columbia College June 4, 2010. Who are the Cajuns?. Descended from French exiles from Acadia, a French colony in eastern Canada/Nova Scotia

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musical gumbo


Music, Dance and Culture from the Melting Pot of Southern Louisiana

Chere Weiss

Lower Columbia College

June 4, 2010

who are the cajuns
Who are the Cajuns?
  • Descended from French exiles from Acadia, a French colony in eastern Canada/Nova Scotia
  • Deported by the British after the French and Indian Wars, they settled in southern Louisiana and established a culture including their own dialect that remains to this day
  • ‘Cajun’ is an altered form of ‘Acadian’
  • Shunned by other whites, largely illiterate
  • Farmers, fishermen, and trappers
cajun musical influences
Cajun Musical Influences
  • Musical styles and instruments of the Acadians; reels, jigs, polkas, mazurkas, waltzes, and square dances
  • Fiddle, triangle, guitar, stand up bass, percussion and much later accordions
  • In the ‘50’s, country western influences and styling. Fais do do – barn/house dances
  • 1st recording 1928 Joe and Cleoma Falcon, “Allons a Lafayette”
who were the creoles
Who Were the Creoles?
  • Mixed heritage of slaves from Africa, Haiti and other Caribbean islands, free persons of color after the Civil War, American Indians, and Europeans/especially Spanish and French.
  • Musical influences included variations on percussion and vocal call and response from the African heritage
  • Creole French and Cajun French are not the same
two cultural worlds merge
Two Cultural Worlds Merge
  • White Cajuns and Black Creoles, both marginalized by white society worked together share cropping in the same fields
  • First commercial partnership blending the musical styles Cajun fiddler Dennis McGhee and Creole accordionist Ame’de’ Ardoin in 1929 recorded “Eunice Two-Step”
cajun and creole music popularized
Cajun and Creole Music Popularized
  • Dewey Balfa, Cajun Fiddler performed at the Newport Folk Festival in mid 1960’s. Public response encouraged him to begin recording
  • Bois Sec Ardoin and Canray Fontenot old style Creole accordion and fiddle trading leads.
  • Performed at Newport Folk Festival in 1966
what is zydeco
What is Zydeco?
  • Allen Lomax recording field songs in the south for the Library of Congress beginning in 1932.
  • An early song in Creole French sang of hard times when the snap beans weren’t salty; there was no meat to cook with. Songs of hardship and poverty: “Les haricots sont pas sales”
  • Jump to Clifton Chenier’s recording in 1965 that is considered a zydeco anthem, still sung in French by nearly every popular zydeco band “zydeco sont pas sale”
zydeco the word
Zydeco: the word
  • The word zydeco can be both a noun and a verb: ‘we go to the zydeco’ ‘let’s zydeco’
  • Also spelled ‘zarico’, ‘zadacoe’, ‘zodigos’, ‘zotticoes’ and ‘zadicoes’. Cultural historian Robert McCormick recorded a 2 volume album A Treasury of Field Recordings in 1960. His research found so many spellings, he combined them all to ‘zydeco’ and local promoters slowly came around to use 1 spelling
rub board frottoir
  • Highly percussive sound made from a piece of corrugated steel, frottoir
  • Made commerically popular by Cleveland Chenier, brother of Cleveland Chenier. His sound was unique, he used 6 bottle openers in each hand to amplify what he called an ‘echo-y’ sound. It was Clifton who designed the first wearable zydeco rub board
accordion as lead instrument
Accordion as lead instrument
  • Zydeco uses the accordion as lead vs. cajun which uses the fiddle
  • There are many types of accordions and different musicians use multiple varieties in their shows, some specialize in one style or another including French single row, piano style, and triple row
  • The Columbia River Reader, Jan-Feb. 2010 edition. Contributing writers Chere Weiss and Sue Piper.
  • The Kingdom of Zydeco, Michael Tisserand, Arcade Publishing, 1998.
  • Cascade Zydeco web site, Contributing writer Penny Holeman
sources continued
  • The Patsy Report website for Cajun Mardi Gras and LA music scene,
  • KRVS - Radio Acadie 88.7 FM Lafayette, LA.
  • Les Berenson, MG Schedule 2010
  •,181“Dance for a Chicken: The Cajun Mardi Gras” excellent documentary about MG Cajun culture
want to learn more about it
Want to learn more about it?
  • Cascade Zydeco
  • Come dance! Allons danse
  • Tuesday nights at Peppers in Vancouver, lessons 7-8 p.m. (free) and CD dancing 8 – 9 p.m. Car pooling available
  • Wednesday nights in Portland at the PPAA, lessons from 7:15 – 8:00 and CD dancing until 10 p.m. Cost: $5. for non-members/$3 for CZ
  • Join and support Cascade Zydeco, annual membership $20. tax deductible
get involved
Get involved!
  • Portland Waterfront Blues Festival, 1st weekend in July. Swamp Romp includes 1 ½ days of all zydeco on the Front Porch Stage

Friday July 2 evening and all day/evening Saturday July 3rd. $10 and two cans of food. Benefits the Oregon Food Bank. CZ a major sponsor of this portion of the festival

  • Live dances 1-2 a month in Portland most of the year