Cajun Music and Louisiana Creole Food

Zydeco has been around since the late 1970s. It consists of songs with a heavy French Creole influence and can be identified as a distinct style or sound. The music is usually loud and fast paced with the main melody being a well-known blues number. The band that started it all was called Zydeco: it was the first band to perform at a Louisiana Creole Jazz Festival.

The origin of the band name Zydeco actually has its roots in two locations. Louisiana’s capital is referred to as Zydeco because it is where the city’s most notable early 1960s rock band took shape. The band’s original name was Trouble and they were based out of New Orleans. The singer for the group was Louis Lemonetti and his band performed around the state of Louisiana along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Ancelets are the drums used by zydeco. The anklet is another slang word for a guitar that originates from the Cajun music of southern Louisiana. While the canceled may not be the exact origin of the name, it does represent the drums that are often used in zydeco music. Other instruments that commonly appear in a Cajun/Zydeco musical group are the cymbals, congas, jingles, banjos, and the toasters. These instruments give this style of music its distinctive sound.

In the early 1960s, Lou Lemonetti was inspired by a trip he took to Mexico to see a Cajun/Zydeco music festival. He was blown away by the sight of the beautiful women who performed traditional Cajun cooking and dancing. He made this trip to Mexico, later to Washington D.C., where he once again admired these Cajun and Zydeco performers. He then decided to make a movie about the people, music and culture of Cajun/Zydeco Louisiana. That’s where Boazoo Chavis, a former street dancer turned professional photographer, came into the picture.

“The Black Creole” as it was known in Washington D.C. was born. Mr. Simien, who is originally from New Orleans, realized right away that this was going to be a great story. Thus began Boazoo Chavis’ lifelong journey chronicling the life of these popular Cajun and Zydeco performers from the early days to present. This book is chock full of up-to-date information about the history of these performers and their notable journey throughout the years. It is also chock full of information about the many festivals and parties held by these unique groups throughout the nation and world.

I have read that there were seven original Cajun men who performed the original Cajun songs in the early 1960s. However, it appears these seven original performers are only one or two, but most likely there were more. I would hazard a guess to say there were more than a few. In one of my earlier articles, I mentioned the fact that Hurricane Hugo (and its aftermath) were the catalyst for the creation of the “Cajun Shrimp” song. That song, “ripened, blackened, boiled’ is probably the most popular Cajun song of all time and definitely the most popular Cajun performers of the early 1960s.

The Cajuns were a hard working group, not a well-known band that got their start on accident. These early performers included no delafose (a.k.a., Joe Gill), Waltz, Tommy Joe (genuine), Emile (real name: Jerome), and Hugo (nicknamed Huggie), who played the fiddle and harmonica. It was Hugo who introduced Cajun music to mainstream audiences when he performed a duo of songs (one of which was a top hit) with the famous soul singer, Aretha Franklin. During that time, there was no “conscious” Cajun music, as opposed to the “rebel” movement of the early Cajuns.

As you can see, the Cajuns were a hard working group, but they were also deeply rooted in their cultural roots and truly enjoyed the music they created – both western and traditional. It’s interesting to me how the term “Cajun” evokes images of shrimp, because the Cajuns were originally from the state of Louisiana – although most everyone else would know them by another name. The Creoles, on the other hand, really brought the whole “cajun” concept into disrepute, because Creoles are usually blue-collar people who didn’t have a lot of opportunity to learn traditional Cajun food and therefore were forced to learn Creole food (which was, in fact, almost none existent in those times).