Zydeco Gallery One

 

In August of 1989 and 1990, I attended the Zydeco Festival in Plaisance, Louisiana, a small community just west of the town of Opelousas. The festival’s one stage was set up in the middle of a field. Just beyond the stage was an enormous old live oak tree, where dancers and musicians could take a rest and escape the strong August sun of the Louisiana sub-tropics. The festival was small, relative to productions such as the Festival Acadien in Lafayette, or the Jazz Festival in New Orleans. And that was part of its appeal for me. You didn’t have to sit way up in North Dakota to find a spot to lay your towel on the ground and hear your favourite band. In front of stage was a dancing area, and you could get right up to the edge of the stage and see the band closeup without jostling through hoards of people. The atmosphere was relaxed, and anyone could dance with anyone, no introduction needed—you just went up to someone, held out your hand, and said, Let’s go!

The following four photographs are the first in a series; I’ll post the other installments in separate posts. I took the pictures in late afternoon, when the sun cast a golden light and the atmosphere took on the clarity of a lucid dream. It was a weekend of pure joy. And I haven’t even started on the food.

I’ve given the name of the one musician in this grouping that I recall. If anyone reading this recognizes anyone else, please let me know in the comments box. Merci!

 


 

(Photo: Camille Martin)

(Photo: Camille Martin)

 

(Photo: Camille Martin)

(Photo: Camille Martin)

 

(Photo: Camille Martin)

(Photo: Camille Martin)

 

(Photo: Camille Martin)

(Photo: Camille Martin)

Terrance Simien

 

The following short introduction to the history of zydeco comes from from the official Zydeco Festival website:

 


 

History

In the days of old, the Creole Community would gather at harvest time and work together to complete their tasks. When a family would have a bouchere` (butchering of a hog), everyone in the community would come over and share in the work and cooking of fresh meat.

When the work was finished, the people would celebrate and entertain themselves with a “La La” ( Creole French for house dance.) Instruments used to create “La La” music were the scrubboard (frottoir), spoons, fiddle, triangles (ti-fers), and an accordion.

When times got tough for a family, they would throw a “La La”, a Saturday night dance in the living room. Emptying the room of all furniture, they would charge ten or fifteen cents admission and sell gumbo, homemade beer and lemonade. Even churches would give benefit “La La” to support different functions of the church.

By most of the music being sung in Creole French, “La La” music was only thought of as being for rural and “old folks. One noted musician, the late great “King of Zydeco”, Clifton Chenier, is credited with naming the music ZYDECO “les haricots” (snapbeans).

In 1981 fearful that Creole and Zydeco music was dying out, “The Treasures of Opelousas” a group of concerned citizens under the guidance and sponsorship of Southern Development Foundation, organized the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival.

The first Zydeco Festival in 1982 was started on a farmer’s field in the Plaisance community on the outskirts of Opelousas, with four hundred of our neighbors attending.

These traditions of yesteryear may be only a memory for some, but it is the testimony that the Zydeco Music Festival serves. A testimony to those who came before….to the ancestors who toiled in the fields under the hot sun to take care of their families….to those who shared with one another during good and bad times…especially to the ancestors who celebrated, laughed, and loved despite the hardships they encountered.

The Zydeco Music Festival is their offspring – a living reminder for us never to forget where we come from, to always appreciate and respect our past, and most of all to continue our legacy in keeping the rich culture alive.
Southern Development Foundation has kept the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival alive and developed it into what is now known as the world’s largest Zydeco (“LA LA”) Music Festival.

 


 

Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

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