It is impossible to separate Cajun music from Louisiana culture. Cajun influence essentially defines the state.
Cajun is a “Louisianian who descends from French-Speaking Acadians,” however many common Cajun surnames such as Souileau and Romero are not Acadian in origin, but are Spanish, German or French Creole and some are even of Anglo or Scotch-Irish origin, as in the case of famed Cajun musicians Lawrence Walker and Dennis McGee (Cajun 1 Pp). For this reason, “contemporary scholars of Cajun history and culture tend to offer a more complex, comprehensive view, attributing the traits of modern-day Cajuns to a dynamic, unending process of ethnic interaction” (Cajun 1 Pp). Modern Cajuns are largely homogenous, however, their ancestry consists of a mixture of numerous ethnic groups (Cajun 1 Pp). The majority of early Acadians originated in the Centre-Ouest region of France, while other came from families of Spanish, Irish, Scottish, English, Basque and American Indian (Cajun 1 Pp). When Arcadians were forced out of Nova Scotia in 1755, many sought refuge in South Louisiana and again intermixed with other ethnic groups, especially with the French, Spanish, German, American Indian, and Anglo-American settlers (Cajun 1 Pp). Moreover, Cajuns borrowed a lot of their culture from the black Creoles, thus, “this cross-cultural pollination in Acadia and South Louisiana changed many dissimilar ethnic groups into a single new ethnic group, the Cajuns” (Cajun 1 Pp).
Therefore, Cajuns not only derive from French-speaking Acadians, but rather from several ethnic groups over which Acadian culture prevailed until the 20th century when Cajuns underwent a wide-spread process of rapid Americanization (Cajun 1 Pp).
Although Cajuns and Creoles are racially distinct, they share a musical repertoire (Louisiana Pp). The most significant Creole contribution has been the Zydeco, “a distinctly black Creole music known for its blending of French songs and African-Caribbean rhythms,” and heavily influenced the Deep South rhythm and blues (Louisiana Pp). Cajun and Creole music have contributed much to the state’s culture, including Cajun dance music, with two-steps, waltzes, and haunting ballad; Creole Zydeco music, with its African influence; and beginning in the early 1950’s, a unique cultural mix created a regional variation of rhythm and blues music called ‘swamp pop’ that has become common throughout South Louisiana (Louisiana Pp). Swamp pop is a combination of rhythm and blues with Cajun and black Creole music, and country and western, and is characterized by a strong horn section and honky-tonk piano (Louisiana Pp). Dance halls abound with Cajun and Creole music for tourists and locals alike (Louisiana Pp).
Lafayette, Louisiana, host to the Le Cajun Music Awards Festival and the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival, is the heartbeat of Acadia and where one truly feels the pulse of Cajun Country with its cultural blends of unique heritage and contemporary sophistication (Lafayette Pp). “Born out of the enduring spirit of the Acadians and Creoles, Cajun and Zydeco music is as much a part of the landscape as meandering bayous and moss-draped oaks” (Lafayette Pp).
Cajun & Zydeco Music
Louisiana’s Traditional Cultures
Lafayette The Heart of French Louisiana
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