Cajun and Creole Country
Lafayette, Opelousas & Countryside

Cajun Music

Dewey Balfa (1927-92), one of the great exponents of traditional Cajun music.
In Louisiana, music often runs in the family, and the Balfas are a musical dynasty.
Dewey played with his brothers; and today, his daughters continue the tradition in
Balfa Toujours and the Magnolia Sisters.


Zachary Richard plays a hard-driving, rock-funk-zydeco inflected Cajun music.
Along with Beausoleil, Richard helped modernize and revive Cajun music
in the '70s and '80s - within the tradition.


Pre-fame Beausoleil (1981).  Before the band and its leader Michael Doucet (left) achieved fame and received Grammies, Beausoleil partook of the tradition of house dances.  Here they perform at a rural wedding in Saint Landry parish.


Canray Fontenot, a Creole fiddle player who plays Cajun music.  Despite its European folk roots and popularity amongst whites, Cajun music has long had a complex relationship with the music and people from another Louisiana French culture, Creole.  From Amédée Ardoin to Wayne Toups' Zydecajun, musicians, songs, and dance steps have crossed over racial boundaries.

Dancers in the Dust in Girard Park in Lafayette during Festivals Acadiens.  Dances are an integral part of musical performances in Southwest Louisiana.  Young and old, skilled or beginner, with a significant other, a dance partner or anybody available, dancers waltz, two-step, or jitterbug in line with the traditional style or with added modern moves.



Clifton Chenier (1925-87), King of Zydeco.
Clifton Chenier virtually invented Zydeco in the 1940s and 50s by combining
Cajun and Creole musical traditions with blues, rock, and
New Orleans rhythm-and-blues.  He gained world renown; and today,
his son, CJ Chenier, carries on as one of the most dynamic zydeco musicians.

Chris Ardoin, whose band "Double Clutchin'" was one of the hits of the
2002 Zydeco Festival.  Chris is also a member of a musical dynasty,
grandson of Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin (frequent partner of Canray Fontenot)
and cousin of Amadé Ardoin (1896-1941), one of the first recorded
Creole musicians.  Chris also backed up his grandfather and father at the Festival.

Dancers at the 2002 Zydeco Festival.

A Jeep from the Saint Landry Sheriff's Posse.  In rural Acadiana, the past meets the present: the Saint Landry Sheriff's posse and its canine auxiliary provide four-wheel driven service and protection to the Plaisance Zydeco Festival.


Mardi Gras in Acadiana

Children's Courir du Mardi Gras at the Village Acadien near Lafayette.  The traditional celebration of Carnaval in Cajun country was revived in the 1960s.  The colored hooded costumes, the made-up faces, the catching of a loose chicken, and the merry atmosphere have endured and adapted to modern life.  Tractor-pulled trailers now follow riders on horseback through the countryside, the local Mardi Gras association prepares the communal gumbo before the bounty is caught, and milder versions of the event are organized for outsiders.  In this case, the chicken was caught and released!

Watching the parade go by.  People from Southwest Louisiana, known for their festive gusto, also are experts at managing their fun.  Watching a parade in style requires timing in picking a good spot and planning if one wants to be comfortable.  Chairs, ladders, coolers and a relaxed state of mind are among the elements necessary to enjoy the experience.

An Acadian Open Channel camera crew at work during a Mardi Gras parade in Lafayette; and photographer Philip Gould at work during Festival International in Lafayette.  Ethnic festivals in Southwest Louisiana are spectacles of ethnicity.  In addition to cultural performances and business transactions, they provide pictures used by insiders and outsiders alike to construct self-images and stereotypes.



Using a hoop net in the Atchafalaya.  The Atchafalaya waterway is where
the Mississippi would "like" to go if it weren't channeled along its present course.
(River cities Baton Rouge and New Orleans have an obvious interest here!)
The Atchafalaya is a multi-use waterway, not only for fisheries, but also as
access to oil fields.  Note the oil-industry supply boat racing in the background.

Vote for ... Broussard, Broussard, Broussard, Lalonde, or Tauzin!  This picture
was taken outside of Scott in Lafayette Parish.  Note the need for "'ti noms"
("petits noms" or nicknames) in the Acadiana area where candidates
(as the population at large) may share the same surnames.


Tremendous thanks to Dr. Jacques Henry of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Louisiana, Lafayette for sharing his photos and background information for this page.

For more on the music, see Philip Gould, with Barry Jean Ancelet, Cajun Music and Zydeco. Louisiana State University Press, 1992. (You can get a special edition with a music CD.)

...Or go see and hear the music at area festivals: the Zydeco Festival in Plaisance, near Opelousas; or the Festival Acadiens or the francophone Festival International de Louisiane, both in Lafayette.

The monthly New Orleans-based magazine, OffBeat, has lots of information on Louisiana music; and you can listen to Louisiana music (mostly New Orleans, but also Cajun and Zydeco) on the web on WWOZ, the public broadcasting station that puts on JazzFest.

LSU-Eunice has a good webpage, with lots of pictures of Mardi Gras in rural Acadiana here


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