POSTED Mon. Jun 1, 2015


Et Toi!
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN

This weekend marks the 9th Annual Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, which is always a fantastic collusion of food, music, and the soupy heat of June in New Orleans. It’s also a time for outlining just what and zydeco is.

Zydeco has always been a tough genre of music to define. First, there’s the name itself – I used to work in a record shop, and whenever people reached the part of the store with CDs labeled ‘zydeco’, inevitably, some customers would mouth ‘zy-dee-what?’

Then, even if people knew what the music was, they often assumed it was intimately tied to New Orleans. And while you can see some great zydeco shows in this city – the regular Thursday gig at the Rock’n‘Bowl is an event I regularly recommend to out of towners – zydeco is truly the music of rural Acadiana – i.e., Cajun country.

This is the part where we need to remind you, gentle readers who may not be from Louisiana, that while New Orleans is a Creole town, Cajun and Creole are two different things, and this is not a Cajun city. Here we go: the Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, French-Canadian refugees from Nova Scotia who came to Louisiana in the 1700s.

‘Creole’ describes the mixed French and Spanish population of New Orleans and their descendants. In much of the French colonial world, it was also a name for people of African and mixed-race descent, which applies to a large number of people in Louisiana.

Here’s the tricky thing: zydeco is a music of largely Cajun origin with a lot of African and African American elements thrown in – to whit, the quick tempo, the scratchy frottoir (the iron suit played with the spoons), the integration of rhythm and blues, jazz and even hip hop. So by the second, French colonial definition above, zydeco mashes up the Cajun and the Creole. It’s sort of the perfect musical expression of South Louisiana.

Unsurprisingly, it is also incredibly danceable, as evidenced by the following clip of the great Buckwheat Zydeco.

Cajun music is a different beast – it is the purely Acadiana dervied music of those refugees from French-speaking Canada who settled in the South Louisiana bayous and prairies. It can, of course, be very danceable, but there are also Cajun songs that are infused with a wistful, nostalgic sense of loss.

Want more of all of the above? Head to Armstrong Park this weekend, grab a cold drink and get your dancing shoes prepped. And if you can’t make it in person, WWOZ will live broadcast the entire festival on Sunday, June 7.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



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