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louisiana

Credit: Beau Jocque | photo copyright The Times Shreveport, 1997

In an article for Lafayette’s The Advertiser, Zydeco Crossroads contributor Herman Fuselier highlights a new documentary called By the River of Babylon.

Don Howard and Jim Shelton have been working on the film for the better part of a decade, starting first with a focus on Beau Jocque and the music of Louisiana before expanding to include to the changing climate of the state’s natural landscape in the wetlands.

From the article:

“We started out making the film just about the music and the dancehalls,” said Howard, a professor of radio, TV and film at the University of Texas at Austin. “There’s a problem with that kind of movie because the only people that are going to get it already have it because they’ve already been there.

“We didn’t really know how to make the best film about it. Then we read this book, ‘Bayou Farewell,’ which was an introduction to what’s going on in the wetlands. We realized the dancehalls are dying on a certain level, but also the landscape itself is drowning.

“Those obviously aren’t causally related, but it seemed to be a poignant thing to make the film about.”

Read the full article here and watch the trailer below. The documentary airs tomorrow evening on WORLD Channel‘s America Reframed program. It will be available worldwide at worldchannel.org beginning Wednesday, June 17th.

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A 1989 documentary called J’ai été au Bal (I Went to the Dance) explores the histories and dynamics of Cajuns and Creoles in Louisiana. Filmmakers Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz and Maureen Gosling incorporated interviews with musicians, including Michael Doucet and Queen Ida, with clips of the Louisiana dance halls, archival footage and performances of some of the original Cajun and Creole players. Watch the documentary on Youtube below.

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The 78 Project

Credit: Ashlee Michot, Corey Ledet and Louis Michot | photo via The 78 Project

Inspired by John and Alan Lomax’s field recordings of the 1930s, Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Jones Wright began The 78 Project in 2011 as a way of connecting a thread from those early archival recordings to contemporary musicians. Armed with a 1930s Presto direct-to-acetate recorder and many painstakingly-crafted acetate disks, the Philadelphia area filmmakers travel across the country to encounter musicians of all styles.

Featured in the documentary is an early iteration of Soul Creole. In 2013 Steyermark and Wright drove to Arnaudville, Louisiana to meet up with Corey Ledet, Louis Michot and his wife Ashlee and record them performing a song in one take, straight to acetate. The trio sings a beautiful rendition of the traditional cajun song “Trape Mon Chapeau.” From the folks at The 78 Project:

Louis Michot told us that what he loved about French music was that everyone playing was driving the same rhythm and the same melody together at the same time. A community of song. We had driven to the Michot family home in Arnaudville, LA last August, and in the course of a hot and happy afternoon, recorded Louis with his wife Ashlee and their friend and musical collaborator Corey Ledet for The 78 Project Movie. The trio cut a 78 of the traditional Cajun dance-ending song “’Trape mon chapeau,” fiddle, accordion and guitar working together the whole way through to forge a powerful, cohesive feeling into the song. Compelling imaginary dancers to crowd together on the floor and enjoy the last joyful moments of the party.

Prior to the segment with Soul Creole, Steyermark and Wright get a lesson in the history of zydeco and Cajun music and listen to Lomax’s recording of a juré musician, performing a style of music that many call the roots of zydeco (you can read Michael Tisserand’s thoughts on these recordings in Kingdom of Zydeco).

Upcoming screenings of The 78 Project are listed below. You can purchase the soundtrack and listen to a clip of “Trape Mon Chapeau” here.  Listen to one of Lomax’s recordings of juré musician Jimmy Peters below, followed by the The 78 Project trailer.

Upcoming screenings:

Charleston, SC: Thursday, January 29th at the Charleston Music Hall (info)

Montclair, NJ: Tuesday, February 10th at the Film Forum at Montclair State University (info)

San Francisco, CA: Sunday, February 22nd at the Noise Pop Festival (info)

Write to contact@the78project.com to set up a screening in your town.

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The crossroads of Creole and Cajun musicians

Creole

Photo: Clifton Chenier & Rod Bernard on the cover of Boogie in Black & White

By now we know the difference between Cajun and zydeco music. As Michael Tisserand put it in our interview with him, “The difference between Cajun and zydeco music is zydeco music reflects the Creole origins of its performers, heavily influeced by African Carribean and African music. Cajun music reflects the Acadian white Cajuns coming down from current day Nova Scotia.”

They are two distinct art forms that are rooted in two very different cultures. And while it’s understandable that members of each culture would want to maintain their singular identity, crossing the barriers of white / black, fiddle / rubboard or French / Creole can be cathartic both musically and socially.

Over the last several decades musicians from both Louisiana sects have crossed those bridges and collaborated on recordings and at live shows. In fact, one of the first recordings of what would go on to become zydeco music is an archive of  Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee performing with Creole accordionist Amede Ardoin (you can listen to the snippet, recorded by Alan Lomax, here). Below you’ll find more instances of Creoles and Cajuns teaming up to celebrate the unique flavor of Louisiana roots music.

Dennis McGee performing with Bois-Sec Ardoin

Dewey Balfa, Rockin’ Dopsie and Nathan Abshire  performing “Oh Bye Bye” and “Jolie Blond”


Rockin’ Dopsie / Dewey Balfa & Nathan Abshire by fredozydeco

Clifton Chenier and swamp pop artist Rod Bernard performing “Ma Jolie Blonde”

Steve Riley with Sherelle Chenier at Jazz Fest 2009

John Delafose & The Eunice Playboys performing Cajun song “Jolie Catin”

 

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Outstanding! Here’s a rare video of Clifton Chenier With CJ Chenier on saxophone, Cleveland Chenier on rubboard, and the late Harry Hypolite on guitar.

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Soul Creole performs “Madeleine” at Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette, LA on October 30, 2014, a clip from the forthcoming Zydeco Crossroads documentary film by Robert Mugge.

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Watch Rockin’ Dopsie at El Sid O’s Zydeco & Blues Club

Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. performed at El Sid O’s Zydeco & Blues Club in Lafayette, LA on October 29, 2014 for the Zydeco Crossroads documentary now in production. Here’s a clip from the forthcoming documentary by director and producer Robert Mugge for WXPN.

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Watch a clip of the Zydeco Crossroads Dance Party

Zydeco Crossroads

Credit: Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble | photo via Instagram by @lisabethweber

Last Saturday night zydeco fans old and new gathered together at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center for an evening of music and dance. They were lead by Lafayette’s Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, while Lake Charles’ Harold Guillory gave dance lessons to the newcomers. Watch a clip of Guillory and the crowd having a blast on the Zydeco Crossroads Facebook page here.

The next live Crossroads event is a holiday potluck this Saturday at the Holy Saviour Club in Norristown.  Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys will provide the music.  Find more information on this event here.

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Put on your boots: The five best Zydeco dancing videos

Zydeco Dancing

Credit: Zydeco dancing at the Blue Moon Saloon | photo by John Vettese

Zydeco isn’t just all about the music, it’s also all about the dancing.  And in case you haven’t heard, the first Zydeco Crossroads Dance Party is coming to District N9NE on December 6th with Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble.  Lucky for us beginners, Lake Charles dance instructor Harold Guillory will be holding lessons before the show.  But if you want to get a head start on nailing the fancy footwork (or you want to see how fun Zydeco dancing can be) check out Jambalaya Magazine‘s list of the five best Zydeco dancing videos on YouTube below.  More information for the dance party can be found here.

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Wolf, cluck, grunt: Animals in Zydeco

Nathan Williams | photo by Rick Olivier via www.spartanindependent.com

Music draws inspiration from everywhere, including the natural world. Popular music has called on animals from Big Mama Thorton’s “Hound dog” to Ylvis’s “What Does the Fox Say?” and Zydeco is no exception.

Some songs use animal sounds, like Boozoo Chavis barking in “Dog Hill,” and other songs simply reference them. Beau Jocque borrowed heavily from Boozoo, including barking on stage. Dogs also appear in songs by Rockin’ Dopsie, John Delafose and Willis Prudhomme and in Rosie Ledet’s double entendre “I’m Gonna Take Care of Your Dog.” Goats are also popular, with several recorded versions of Boozoo Chavis’ “Johnny Ma Cabri” (“Johnny Billy Goat”). Nathan Williams sings “Follow Me Chicken” and “Everything On the Hog.” Beau Jocque sang “Who Stole My Monkey?” and “Don’t Sell My Monkey.” Boozoo also had “You’re Gonna Look Like a Monkey,” and Zydeco Joe’s well-known for “Jack Rabbit.” Cats, bulls, mules and cows round out the Zydeco menagerie.

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