Friday, January 1, 2016

La Musique de la Louisiane

Louisiana is a little cauldron of creativity. Its just four million people make it closer in size to New Mexico than to big cities like New York and Los Angeles. In New Orleans, of course, jazz was born. New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta that begins and ends there are the primary springs from which Blues flowed. Louisiana is home to some of Rock and Roll's originals, like Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis. These are the music forms America invented and is world revered for, but from Louisiana also comes Zydeco and Cajun music and their offshoots, born of French and Creole backgrounds and interminglings, that are not as well known, although the Zydeco band led by Buckwheat Zydeco has occasionally appeared on TV.

The drive through the southern part of Louisiana on I-10, or US 190 -- from Mobile through Baton Rouge and then 20 miles on raised pillars across the mighty Atchafayala Swamp and into Cajun Country's capital, Lafayette, where the TA truck stop just might be serving crawfish etoufee, then on through Lake Charles and Beaumont, TX and into Houston -- is one of the most enjoyable drives I know of. Turn on the radio and fiddle with the dial a bit, find the little stations in between all the Clear Channel dreariness, and you'll be treated to some of America's best, and some really original, music.

KPFT, the Houston Pacifica station, has two programs of Cajun and Zydeco music. Several years ago the record industry and a few rich musicians started freaking out about music file sharing over the internet and they've been able to strike the copyright infringement fear into the hearts of many radio stations that had been podcasting their shows -- which makes them easy to save on your computer -- and many stations quit podcasting music shows, although they still make them available as live streams, and hence, it is said, if you know what you're doing (I don't) still recordable.

Then there's KFAI, a little Minneapolis-St Paul community funded station which airs Louisiana Rythmns every week. They leave each of their two-hour-long programs on the show's web site for two weeks, during which you can save the entire show as an mp3 flie by left clicking on the (middle button - "listen now") feed. It's amazing.

I don't know why this situation still stands. I've wondered if it's the generous nature of the Southwest Louisiana musicians who record it, or maybe because those musicians sell lots of records in Minneapolis-St Paul and get lots of work there. The Louisiana Rythmns hosts give a weekly rundown of the Twin Cities' Cajun/Zydeco music scene and there are usually one or two Southwest Louisiana bands appearing in the area. There are even some local Minnesota groups playing that music. Strange.

The other night I was cruising into Holbrook listening to my KFAI download when a song by Bonsoir, Caitin, a Cajun girl (except for the drummer) band, came on. They aren't among the giants of the genre yet but there's some talented young musicians here, I'd say, particularly accordion player Kristi Guillory who wrote most of the songs on their latest album.


  1. I love Cajun music, it is one of my favorite types. I have a nice collection that I enjoy listening to. I understand that there are many, many variations.

    New Mexicans used to have some beautiful music in earlier times. The modern New Mexican music is just a lot of wannabes, including and having been led by the "grandfather of New Mexican music". If you can find it there is an old album with music by Gregorio Ruiz and Evaristo Lucero. THAT WAS NEW MEXICAN MUSIC.

    The one highlighted below used to be a favorite here in New Mexico in years past. I have not heard it sung in New Mexico in over 60 years.

    Today travelers in Northern New Mexico are subjected to this new "New Mexican" music 24/7 on the Las Vegas radio station KNMX. I would suggest that any politician running for office in the state be required to listen to KNMX for a week straight.

    1. I'll be damned. I searched for "Gregorio Ruiz and Evaristo Lucero. THAT WAS NEW MEXICAN MUSIC" and came upon a blog written by a guy who looks a lot like you, which I never knew existed and which you've never mentioned as far as I can recall. You sly devil you. I've always wondered. I've wondered, too, if you'd snagged that moniker by being the first person on the internet in New Mexico; you've got the best blog name, too!

      So I've been reading your great blog instead of searching for music. I wish I knew 1/10 as much about my history as do you. I did come across some American Folkways type places with lists of recorded New Mexican music and oral histories and such that are squirreled away in archives somewhere but I don't yet know if any of it is available to the public. Your youtube link looks promising in that regard. By the way, I translated the lyrics to Al Olivio, Al Olivio that you posted using Google translate and have learned a lot. So far, New Mexican woman haven't paid any attention to me, but I haven't tried falling out of an olive tree. I'm going to start looking for one.

      Anyway, it's a small world. Someone who has not only heard of Cajun music but collects it. I'll be damned. Thanks for the comment, NM.

  2. Now there is an idea which I been thinking on and never was able to follow through on. This year instead of returning to Minnesota from Florida via Nashville we keep heading West on I-10 all the way to New Orleans on Bubbas recommended sight seeing tour....:)

    1. Ha! Thanks for that kind endorsement Mr T. I envy you that opportunity. I've only seen what you can see from the cab of a semi and only stopped where there's truck parking, and of course always had to get moving after a too brief interlude.

      I like your proposed routing idea, too. The Appalachians are beautiful but I grew weary of driving them in a truck. I mean, you have to be paying attention all the time. I can remember some bad winter storms up there, too. The I-10 route is much flatter and warmer. In imagining that route I can picture coming into Minnesota on I-35. That's another nice ride, through a beautiful part of the prairie. I'd almost always stop at the big truck stop in Albert Lea, which you may know of. It's been bought by TA but is rare in that it's still like it was before they bought it. Great breakfasts, local crafts and foods for sale. It's in a beautiful big wooden beam building.

      By the way, I have a friend who has a bed and breakfast in New Orleans. It's not exactly the Motel 6 (i.e. my preferred price range) if you know what I mean but for something like that it's probably not bad. $239 a night? It's very close to the French Quarter, according to their web site. I can vouch for Rita. I went to school with her and her sisters and brother in Michigan and they're good people. Their name, Szarabajka, is pronounced Sara BY ka.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. uhhh....Sorry, it is kind of up there with liver, okra and lima beans for me.

    1. But you can't just listen to polka all the time. Thanks for the comment!