Welcome to old and new friends who are interested in discussing Cajun and other diatonic accordions, along with some occasional lagniappe....



General Forum
Start a New Topic 
View Entire Thread
Re: The essentials

My suggestion is that you just go with songs that you like or that move you. If you do, you will end up with a more natural expression of yourself. This will be more interesting to yourself and your listeners than if you were to become a Cajun Top 40 band.

We all have our favorites, and we all have songs that we are tired of, and that is normal. I don't think you should feel compelled to play a particular song because it might be an "essential" Cajun song, especially if you don't really like it. Here is an example (I am about to make a sacrilegious statement): I know that "Jolie Blonde" is considered and essential Cajun song, and is sometimes referred to as the Cajun National Anthem. It is a great song, but I am totally burned out on it, and I am burned out on every single band playing it. When I started gigging I decided that I would not learn it, and I never have. Sometimes I get requests to play it, and I have to turn them down. It is somewhat unfortunate to have to turn down a request, but I think it is better than to make a lame half hearted performance.

Just a thought.


Re: Re: The essentials

David is absolutely right. Be yourself.

There's two sides to this coin and both are worth face-value:

Don't become another cookie-cutter band -- unless that's what you truly love; and as you know, many bands/players love those tried-and-true classics. But do you learn these tunes as a measuring stick? There's always going to be someone else who can play that song better than you.

I guess if I lived within Acadiana and was presumed to know the top 20 essential tunes because the only gigs I could get would place me in front of an audience that expected [that], then I'd have to force myself to be like everyone else for fear of not being recognized as a legitimate contender, therefore compromising a bit of my identity.

It really depends on where you are in your capabilities. If you're still learning the box, it's obviously easier to learn/copy previously existing tunes. If I were a guitarist, I would assume I'd have to learn some Chuck Berry, Hendrix and Zeppelin... but I'd probably set all that aside because I'd be more interested in rhythm and Coupe Cloue and King Sunny Ade would express more of what rocks MY soul.

I admire an artist like The [early] Bluerunners because they decided to do something different. But there's little doubt they had to start somewhere.

Maybe delving deep (like Steve Riley does) into the hidden tunes from obscure or lesser known pioneers of Cajun music, would facilitate your learning while avoiding sounding like the other guy down the street.

That's my one coin with two sides,


Re: Re: Re: The essentials


I hear ya. I only release Cajun originals when I release albums. There's no point in recording "the Back Door" -- no one has topped the original.

Nick B

Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials

Yeah Nick, I'm picking up on what you're saying.

You've got to look at it a couple of different ways; those of us who didn't grow up *with* the music around us and didn't touch an accordion for the first time when we were 5 years old look at this music in a whole different light. Many of us in this forum latched on to Louisiana music after hearing it as adults. I speak for myself on this.

While it's great to know a couple of traditional numbers -- they're a beautiful thing to hear and experience, it's not going to get you gigs outside of a Cajun-style restaurant or event outside of S. Louisiana -- if traditional tunes are all you choose to play. The music will evolve regardless if you're on the "expansion" bandwagon or not. Many folks here in this forum are into the accordion as a hobby or collector and could care less whether or not they play on a stage or not. That's all good, don't get me wrong. I'm expounding on those of us who perform the music to the public.

Expanding the boundaries of C&Z music also expands the listenership base. And the bands with an edge to them attract the younger crowd -- thus roping in new fans to not only their style of music, but also to the roots of where that style came from. Every type of music has roots somewhere and popular music of today doesn't sound like like the popular music of 20 years ago.

Zydeco music has changed directions a couple of times since the Clifton days; it's evolved from the country to the city; from the blues to funk; from the piano accordion to the button. Some say Cajun music hasn't evolved -- ha. When I hear Travis, Damon, Kevin, Wilson or Jamie (the top "Cajun" dogs) I hear a LOT of change. Ironically, the change I hear presented by these artists is the introduction (or acceptance) of Creole music and stylings in their repertoire.

I know, we still haven't address those essential top tunes!


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials

Cajun music has never not been evolving, everyone plays it a little different. What we consider traditional was probably considered newer or changing by many at the time it was recorded.

My own humble opinion is us learning folk, at least for me, should play what they like and the ones that come to them first. Some songs just come easier than others and I personally wouldnt be having fun at it if I wasnt learning songs I liked. As you learn some others come easier. My dad told me some of his usual understated wisdom that really stuck, he said the journey learning it is the most fun. Me thinks he's right. If so, I got lots of fun left.

Re: The essentials

As a Louisiana guy, I would learn and perform Jolie Blonde if I were you. And Chere Tout Toute. And a bunch more of the old ones.

Jolie Blonde has been done in a bunch of different ways, but it'd be a shame not to play it, even if you have a different arrangement.

Points made here about how you can't beat the original are well taken, but many songs have been improved upon or made interesting by someone farther down the line. We pretty much wouldn't have any Iry LeJeune if he hadn't played songs that came before him. That said, Lawrence Walker and Adam Hebert and D.L. Menard did a lot of original songs, so who knows! I am just glad you are playing

Re: Re: The essentials

I do live here in South LA. When I go to the jam sessions at Marc's, I don't really hear anyone getting up and doing something original (maybe new arrangement). I really see what ya'll are saying, but I think what I was asking got lost in translation. I know at least a few of you must like playing some traditional cajun songs, otherwise what attracted you to playing? I was just looking for some new ideas of songs to give a listen to and try to learn. The ones I play, I play b/c I like

Re: Re: Re: The essentials - Jolie Blonde

Good points all around.

I remember hearing Jolie Blonde performed at the Traildust Steakhouse in Dallas a few years ago. Naturally, they played it instumentally and did the Harry Choates version, but it was still cool to hear.

Just a quick footnote, French Canadians refer to their girlfriends as "ma blonde", regardless of her hair color.

Ma blonde est une tete rousse,

Nick B.

Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials - Jolie Blonde

Some people in Europe think that Jolie Blonde is the hymne of Cajun Country.
So it must be an essential.
Most cajun songbooks for fiddle or accordion content often the same songs.
When starting most people see these songs as essentials.
When people play longer they discovered there own essentials.
It's depending of what they like.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials - Jolie Blonde

The irony of Jolie Blon' is you see couples rush to dance to it, when the lyrics are so dang sad!? Aren't they?


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials - Jolie Blonde

Depends on the perspective, I have known people who were glad when their jolie fille left for another, maybe felt a little sorry for the other guy. And like the song says, she aint the only one in this world.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The essentials - Jolie Blonde

Touché mon ami! Thanks for clearin' that up! See you soon! ~T! (R!CK)

Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

Brett's all new Cajun Accordion Music Theory for all keys!

LFR1.gif - 1092 Bytes The April 2011 Dewey Balfa Cajun & Creole Heritage Week

augusta.gif - 6841 Bytes

Listen to Some GREAT Music While You Surf the Net!!
The BEST Radio Station on the Planet!