Sunday, June 22, 2014

Louisiana: The Yankee Chank

Before I tell you what a "Yankee chank" is, I have to tell you what chank is, or more specifically, "chanky chank."

Chanky chank

Back in the day, chanky chank was a derogatory term used to describe Cajun/Creole (and early zydeco) music.  Go here for a thorough explanation in an article, From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks: The Cajun Accordion as Identity Symbol, by Louisiana music ethnomusicologist, Dr. Mark DeWitt. The article is from the book, The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More! edited by Helena Simonette.

Dewey Balfa. Source: Smithsonian Folkways

Chanky chank gained some prestige when: 
In 1964 [Dewey] Balfa and his band were asked to perform as last-minute replacements at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, a premier event in the world of folk music and a top outdoor venue. Friends in Louisiana knew that he would be playing the old-fashioned Cajun music they called "chanky-chank," and suggested that the group would be laughed off the stage. Instead, Balfa received a standing ovation.

Source: Encylopedia

Yankee chank

I'd never heard of chanky chank until I attended the last in a series of discussions about how documentaries have portrayed Cajuns, beginning with The Louisiana StoryDr. Barry Ancelet, a folklorist, facilitated the series. Don't remember how we got on the subject, but we talked about how sometimes transplants to Acadiana are stern arbiters of the right way to dance Cajun or zydeco. (These are referred to generally as dance nazis, who are by no means exclusive to the Cajun and zydeco genres.)

Dr. Ancelet immediately said, "Yankee chanks."

I love this.

Yankee chank refers to people from outside southern Louisiana who play the Cajun and zydeco music, especially accordions. Meant somewhat derisively at first, perhaps, it looks like at least some of the targets of this label have now embraced it with pride. Also, I should note that at the Saturday Cajun jam at Vermilionville, the emcee always introduces and expresses appreciation for visiting musicians from outside Louisiana.

Source: Yankee Chank

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Louisiana: Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival!

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

It's always the first weekend of May, and in 2014, the town celebrated its 54th festival.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Bags checked at gate - not even a bottle of water alllowed in.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Fabulous music. Fabulous.  Six months ago, I didn't know these people existed, but today, I can tell you it is very satisfying to see venerable musicians such as Ray Abshire and D.L. Menard in person.

Ray Abshire and company, Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

I filmed Mr. Menard's performance (with the band Jambalaya) of his famous song, Back Door, here. How I love this song! I'm not wild about the quality of my video, though, so I invite you to watch the superior video below, which someone filmed at the 2009 Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival:

It was also fun to see people I "knew" from having watched videos before I went to the festival.

Like this good-lookin', good-dancin' couple below:

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

I first "met" them in the much-viewed video below from the 2009 festival:

Now look at that still photo again (above the video). See the slender guy on the right? In the flappy-eared hat? Well, that's Leon of Cafe des Amis renown, and you can watch him dance in the video here, taken by a visitor to that cafe:

Note: Leon's dance partner is doing a damn fine job herself.

It's pretty hot and sunny in BB, Louisiana, and as I have learned from watching southern Louisianans with parades, they know how to attend a festival. It's first come-first serve at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, but you can bring your own shade tent and set it up in permissible areas. This is a life-saver when you're at the festival for the long haul. 

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Of course, everyone has a chair.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

If I were staying longer, I'd definitely invest in one of those folding chairs with its own awning.  Below, you can see one or two of these awning-chairs, but otherwise, you'll see a variety of umbrellas:

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

I never tire of watching people dance, especially zydeco. It's fun to see the same people at the different venues. You get to know their styles, their signature moves.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

(Between you and me, though, I've learned that a lot of people dance whatever the hell they want to zydeco music, especially the jitterbug, the two-step, some form of swing, or just whatever the spirit moves them to do.)  

As my dance teacher said, as long as you're moving to the beat, it really doesn't matter.

DL Menard with Jambalaya, Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 2014, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lake Martin, Louisiana: In Lotus Bloom

Lotus, Lake Martin, Louisiana

On Father's Day, June 2014, the lotus are in bloom on Lake Martin.

Lotus, Lake Martin, Louisiana

The lotus leaves billow like baby elephant ears when they stand alert from the water.

Lotus, Lake Martin, Louisiana

 When flat on the water surface, birds use the lotus leaves as momentary resting spots.

Lotus, Lake Martin, Louisiana

In the boat, we glide through a field of lotus and dragonflies.

A slide show below, which includes scenes from Lake Martin in June and April 2014 and of January 2012:

Lake Martin, Louisiana


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rootless: Life-Work Balance Out of Whack

In his book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge used the analogy of a kitchen faucet to make a point about the lag time between making a change and seeing the desired results. Well, it was about more than that, but I'm going to borrow it for my own purpose.

Say you want some warm water. You turn on the hot and cold water handles, but the water remains cold. So you open up the hot water handle some more, and the water's still too cold, so you close up the cold water a little bit, and then all of a sudden the water's too hot, so you have to adjust the hot and cold handles again til you get the temp where you want it. There's always a lag time between an action and a reaction.

I wanted more EFL students so I could increase my income ... and little by little I got more. Yay!

Then came this one night when I realized that even though I'd completed my last class a few hours earlier, I was still doing related administrative work. About the same time, I was wondering, damn, what's happening to my creative life? 

You see what happened is this: I suddenly found myself with too much of a good thing! (I love teaching English online.) There wasn't much administrative work with my online teaching job, but what there was hadn't grown incrementally, it had grown exponentially, with the result that my work-personal life was completely out of whack.

But fortunately, the Universe looked kindly upon me. Because almost to the day that I realized my predicament, a hand reached out to me with an enticing invitation to consider a professional zag from my current zig. I accepted that invitation and one week from tomorrow, I will be working full time and yet have more personal time for creative, tourist-in-residence pursuits than I do now.

I'll still be in the EFL world, but not as an EFL teacher. I am wistful about not teaching, but enthusiastic about my new role. 

For now, I'm looking forward to a resumption of balance.