I have just stumbled onto this website and find it fascinating that Cajun music has fans so wide spread. I grew up with it and the older I get the more fascinated I get with it, especially since I have moved away (oh, what have I done).
Something curious is brought up here. Just what is considered "Traditional Cajun" music. I think of the Balfa's, Nathan Abshire, Iry Lejeune, and other's from that era. They're the ones that make my soul fly. But most of them were just part of an evolution in the music that I really think it would be hard to put a finger on what would be considered traditional, it is such a melting pot. My great grandfather was Dennis Mcgee, who sang very old tunes, many of which he added words to. Many of them have a very Irish sound to them. You hear many old songs with a definate Polka sound to them. And as someone said, the accordian was not original Cadien stuff. Those older players both made their own music and redid older songs with their own twist.
What I see lacking in many newer bands that I have heard is that feeling, that coming from the soul sound. Many of them are technically better players, but they are missing the most important ingredient to what I consider traditional, soul. Bois Sec and Canray were not the best technically, but they harnessed a feeling in their music that is hard to describe or copy. And many dont even understand.
Just my .02 worth. My heartfelt respect goes out to all of you playing the music. Prend Courage. Lache-pas la musique de mon am.
Great question and great answers! I believe that traditional Cajun music will never die, but I do believe that there is a problem for the musicians who play the music. Many who want to play full-time, to make recordings, and, maybe even tour have a hard time doing that - there just isn't enough money or other support to allow them to do that.
Why, I do not know. Many years ago, I believe that the Balfas, Dennis McGee, the Landreneaus, D.L. Menard, Marc Savoy, and othermade frequent appearances around the country. Today, there are basically just a few bands that tour regularly.
The marketing means to help to make touring and recording financially beneficial is just not there. There is no good place to buy cajun recordings; many who could help to market and promote the music either do not know how or do not believe that it is worth their while to do that. Zydeco music seems to get in the way, even though that music will be assigned to the music junk heap much sooner that authentic traditional music will be. Record companies that should be interested seem to be more interested in themselves than in the musicians.
I live in Maryland, and there are very few bands from Louisiana who come here any more. I suspect that is also true in many other areas of the Country. Cajun (and other forms of traditional music) needs more "listeners" who will pay to see the music played "live" and will purchase recordings. The only problem is that too few people know just how wonderful the music is and the musicians are.
As for Cajun fiddle music, it isn't exactly flourishhing (on a commercial scale) either, even though there are some wondeful Cajun fiddlers. There are many more people who play Old-Time fiddle music than there are who play Cajun fiddle music. Many more Old-Time fiddlers know about people like Ed Haley, Emmett Lundy, John Salyer, Edden Mammonds and dozens of others than they do about Dennis McGee, one of the greatest of any kind of fiddlers. If they only knew more about him and his playing style, they would try to play like he did. That would be good for the Cajun economy.
And how about the local SW Louisiana music scene? There is not much more depressing than to go to some music venue where a wonderful band is playing and finding that there are less than a dozen people there. For some reason that I do not understand, it seem like a lot of the old dance halls are dying.
Maybe some day, someone who understands the potential for Cajun music to help the musicians and dance halls and the overall economy of SW Louisiana will recognize that the music is that good and should be nurtured and promoted everywhere. More listeners and dancers will come, and the world will be a better place.
In the meantime, traditional Cajun and Creole music (with fiddles and accordions)is what is good! That other stuff isn't good! Thanks for keeping the tradition alive.
For many, and so was for me, cajun, and creole, tend to be acquired tastes. Most folks can't understand the lyrics, vocals can be grating, and the accordion is not exactly a smooth instrument. When you can't understand what is being said, you lose a whole layer of attachment to a piece of music.
All these things are counter to the contemporary music scene that most folks are used to. And to contemporary culture. Cajun music is outside of contemporary culture for most folks, and therefore is a "specialty" music.
I didn't really start appreciating the music until I started trying to play it. Ok, first I started dancing too it, then playing it. Even at that, I prefer a more contemporary sound, like Balfa Toujours (but not Beausoleil) to some of the much older stuff. The sound quality is better, for several reasons.
Zydeco, on the other hand, is closer to mainstream music than cajun is. Therefore, people gravitate to it more easily. I'd say though, if the trend to keep blending zydeco with hip-hop, etc, goes on, it might well end up in the trash bin. That, however, is personal opinion, just as are your comments, Jack. Zydeco came about by a blending of the old with the newer R&B sounds. Who knows what will happen.
There's people on the squeezebox discussion list who continually lament the fall in the popularity of the accordion from, say, fifty years ago. However, when you point to something like Zydeco bringing back a popularity for a couple of different types of accordions, they too will say that Zydeco is trash and destined for the trash bin. In this case, what they people are lamenting is the popularity of themselves as accordion musicians, not the instrument itself. But I digress.
I've talked to one musician who is in a popular Louisiana cajun band, and she was in the same boat as me: we both listen to most cajun music to study it. If we want to listen to something for pure enjoyment, we'll more likely put something on that we respond to on a different level.
For people who were born and raised with cajun music, it is what they already know, and so their response can be closer to home.
I agree with much of what you say--good observations about the whole issue of acccessibility or "ease of attachment" when music falls outside our own traditions or experience. And some aspects of traditional Cajun/Creole music can take awhile to "grow on you."
I was surprised by one comment, though: that you mainly listen to Cajun music in order to study it--that for pure enjoyment, you'd likely put on something else.
It's hard work learning to play, that's for sure. But why go through all that if it didn't start with some fundamental attraction to the music--as something that gave you pleasure to hear?
Even with the language difference, so many people do seem to have that "immediate response" to Cajun music, which then deepens as they learn more about the culture and the music. Kind of an instant conversion experience. Mine was 15 years ago, after my first trip to Louisiana.
(I do recognize the sizeable other camp, the ones who say it leaves them cold!)
Anyway, I was just curious. Didn't something about Cajun music strike the spark, give you pleasure in listening, make you want to play it?
In a word, dancing. Its an infectious dance music. I was very involved in cajun dancing before I ever picked up a rubboard, then accordion, then fiddle.
And having always wanted to be a musician, it provided a way to be involved in another way with something that I was enjoying already. So, listening to some cajun music outside of the dance hall is not the same as listening to it in the dance hall. You just don't get that multimedia effect.
Its also an accessible music, once you get past the particular hurdles of the instruments. And lyrics. And rhythm.
And, I guess, it is where I'm from.
Oh I guess here about a month ago, I wrote of this young fiddler (10 yr old) that I met by my just sitting on the porch doing what it is I enjoy doing.. playing traditional accordion.
We only spoke of traditional French muisc for about 3 hours once we met... then... boop off he went and I have not seen or heard from him since! Lo-and-behold, had a call last evening re: young Mr. Carl and he would like to hook up and play some stuff he has been working on (traditional French music). So while I wondered what he was doing.. he was learning and practicing traditional at home, plus what ever else kids do with spare time.
Mind you (everyone) I live in a little town (Galt) in Northern California... So here I am thinking about this topic of the croaking out of the tradiditional music and thinking ...hummmm, of all the places on the planet GALT and up pops this little bitty guy fiddle player wanting to indulge in Traditional French Music! How odd is that one?
Will it die out? Will it go away?
Perhaps as Mr. Roland had indicated.. yep, the dance halls may wither away to a short few.. but I just don't think that this old soul sound for Traditional French Music will dry up and blow away all together... nope, not as long as some distant sound of an accordion catches the attention of some young ear and leaves em wanting to know what it is all about... especially stemming from a town called Galt California.
I look forward to this afternoons session with young Carl the fiddle playing prodigy ... I am knowing that this youngster has choices for what it is he wants from his violin and yet he's picking up on traditional.
Aside from all that.... if it is MONEY MONEY MONEY (and for some it seems to be), may as well hook up with some syndicated this or that and spike your hair up, eat rats (or worse) on stage. HA. or... have a day job which most do anyways.
Power to the old goats and the young kids of Traditional French Music that do it for the love of it all. Makes me want to whip up a pitcher of Margies and celebrate!
We can only hope this music and culture stays alive.... I feel it will. I'm 25 years old and I live in Baltimore maryland, where there is practically no following for Cajun music, yet I'm doing anything I can to spread interest in it. I often go to accordion club meetings and play these older guys and some young people cajun accordion music. It was there my band was aired on fox 45. I've got my siser's friend's kid interesed in playing. I also spend a whole lot of time by the inner harbor and fells point playing caun music for hours to many drunken bar hoppers. You must make a point to explain what it is you are playing for those interesed.
This sounds like a small cry to a large crowd (being baltimore), but I take my accordion out when i can and spread the word. if enough people do that, Cajun music will stay alive.
The popularity of Cajun, Bluegrass, Big Band, Folk, etc. will ebb and flow with the times. They will be modified and adapted only to be re-discovered by purists. A few hard core performers may even scratch out a living at it.
The accordion is a relative new commer and we are very fortunate that some of the original performers were recorded in the 1920s and 30's.
My question is.... will there ever be a shortage of accordion makers in the future? Marc says no one will carry on his business, Larry says the same. Mouton's website is down (is Greg done making boxes?).
Well, we certainly have evidence on this board of two people who have started building more recently, and who haven't even hit full stride: Jude Moreau and Ed Poullard.
Jude has been at it for awhile, though not as long as Marc and Larry--and he is 20-some years younger than they are. Ed has started more recently, and has already made some beautiful instruments. So I think we can look forward to many productive years ahead from both of them!
The newer builders have been influenced and helped, of course, by Marc and especially Larry, from what I understand. So their legacy will continue in that way.
It is a good question though--are any younger people showing signs of picking up the craft?
Didn't mean to include that link in my previous post! You can ignore it, unless you enjoy reading about fake Cajun festivals with lots of hype!
It is to a so-called "Cajun" festival that, sad to say, somebody is putting on
the same weekend as Isleton. I'd started to write something in response to the discussion of what happened to Isleton, rumors that there was going to be a festival. I just got wind of this one, was going to alert people that it is NOT the same thing at all...then decided, why even both talking about it. But I guess the website link remained, when I went on to do another post!
John Roger has an apprentice right now with a couple of more coming on board soon and though he has only recently start his apprenticship program. More may apply.
Hi . . . I live right in the heart of Acadian country here in the Province of New Brunswick, Canada, although I'm not of Acadian background myself, all my friends are, I play my music to Acadian people, etc.
I'd like to know how much interest you have in this area where your ancestors came from. Do you ever talk about this place? Do you have any Acadian music?
Or did the deportation happen so long ago, that it's not important?
I suppose I could go on and on with questions but maybe that's enough to get my point across.
I look forward to hearing from you, with thanks.