The Acadiana 5
|When it comes to homegrown Cajun, Creole, French and zydeco music, the future is now.|
Folks in South Louisiana generally have songs in their hearts. At least that’s what I believe. Like the sound of stride piano in the night or blues guitar escaping from a half-busted amp, the music down here just grabs you. Tightly. It transports. And for some, it never lets go.
That’s the kind of misty, throaty romantics residents of the Big Easy have waxed lyrical about since Pops first picked up a trumpet. But as time goes by, thanks in part to recently added Grammy categories and new, Internet-fueled access points to music, Louisiana’s other home of the hits is gaining international notoriety and garnering huge followings as well.
Nestled firmly in the culture of Acadiana—somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday morning, some might say—is a peppery amalgam of sound that can be deconstructed into Creole, French and zydeco music. Plus a few others.
Let’s review five reasons why Acadiana music is taking its place on the world stage more aggressively than ever before.
That is, let’s give a nod to le jeune generation des Cajuns—meaning the young generation of Cajuns and their cultural counterparts—who are carrying on with traditions and methods forged by scores of musicians and promoters who died long before they were even born.
They are collectively part of the new wave of Acadiana music. Moreover, they are breathing new life into these beloved south Louisiana genres.
The online version ain’t much for piling crawfish on, but editorial staffers over at The New York Times were wise enough to get out of their ivory towers and into the marshes when they assessed Feufollet’s 2010 En Couleurs, released on the band’s own label.
Here’s the ringing endorsement: “The band is downright radical in the studio. While it can still huff and stamp through a two-step, it reconfigures its sound for each song: adding backup vocal harmonies, assorted electric keyboards (not to mention a toy piano), horns or pedal steel guitar, as well as some electronic effects.”
Radical is an excellent adjective to use when considering Feufollet. (Translated from its original French, Feufollet means “crazy fire.”) Catch the band while they’re home and you’ll be rightly surprised—and downright entertained—to hear a traditional Cajun setup take on a punk tune or rhythm and blues track. But more importantly, Feufollet sounds good putting it out there.
With its 2008 Cow Island Hop, the band earned its creative stripes by mixing in the sounds of a Mellotron, an early-version electronic keyboard, and by playing over reversed vocals and guitar licks.
It’s no wonder the band recently garnered a Grammy nomination for En Couleurs, and regularly gleans praise from its contemporaries. On the website of the band he plays with, the Pine Leaf Boys, Wilson Savoy called Feufollet’s 2008 album the “most awesome album to be released in Louisiana in our genre.” Savoy also adds, “When you listen, you hear a bunch of young guys and a girl who have been influenced by all kinds of music and are not afraid to mix it with their Cajun roots and kick ass.”
And even though the members of Feufollet cringe when it’s spoken aloud, they are the new and future BeauSoleil—most of them only recently old enough to drink in the bars where they often play.
Hear the jeune sound: Catch a live performance by Feufollet at the Blue Moon here.
THE PINE LEAF BOYS
The New York Times likes these fellas, too, insisting the Pine Leaf Boys “cast a spell” with their special brand of music that’s always “conducive to an elbow-flying, hip-swiveling spirit on the dance floor.” They’ve also been nominated for a Grammy in the Cajun/Zydeco category—four times, making the Pine Leaf Boys the most-nominated Cajun/Zydeco band of all time.
Not bad for a group of 20-somethings. Yet for all its fame, the band is as down to earth as most other souls from the Lafayette area, as evidenced by frontman Savoy’s earnest enthusiasm for Feufollet. While the band certainly acts locally, it thinks globally as well—the Boys found themselves in the Middle East a few years ago as part of a cultural exchange program. The group recently visited Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, and led a workshop and jam session with local Saudi and expatriate musicians.
It’s also not uncommon to find the Pine Leaf Boys away on a European tour, so catch them when you can. It may be the only opportunity you’ll ever have to meet a group of guys who can barely remember pre-Internet communications, but can belt out an 82-year-old song from Creole crooner Amédé Ardoin upon request.
Sweeter than a Ponchatoula strawberry and hotter than a little Avery Island pepper, Amanda Shaw of Covington has carved out her own niche on the Louisiana music scene with nothing more than a bow and fiddle. For most of her life, Shaw has been referred to as a prodigy, but her music—increasingly leaning more to the pop and country side—is coming into its own as she nears the age of 21 this fall.
She was named a “Future Famer” last year by the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Mike Shepherd, founder of the Hall, says Shaw represents the “foundation for a new and revitalized music industry for Louisiana.”
If you’re looking for traditional, southwest Louisiana Creole music, look no further than 28-year-old Cedric Watson. Even though he’s technically from east Texas, Watson cut his teeth playing with the likes of the Pine Leaf Boys, among many others. In his own words, he’s looking to revive the “old Creole fiddling styles of Canray Fontenot and Bebe Carrier.” Listen closely and you might also hear sounds of Africa and the Caribbean in his arrangements. Along with his band, Bijou Creole, Watson was nominated for a Grammy this year.
BLUE MOON SALOON
Obviously, the Blue Moon Saloon isn’t a band or even a musician. It’s a venue in Lafayette and, more importantly, it’s the heart of this new wave of Acadiana music. On any given night, you’ll see college hipsters and grooving geriatrics rubbing shoulders in this bare-bones establishment. It’s actually more of a side porch attached to a grand old house masquerading as a hostel. Check it out yourself to learn more, or navigate over to BlueMoonPresents.com.
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