Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Louisiana Movie: Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana

Carriere brothers. Credit: CD Universe.

One of the reasons I chose Opelousas as my new South Louisiana base is because of its history, especially of the Creole culture and music. Lawtell, just outside of Opelousas, is (arguably) the home of Zydeco.

The 1986 documentary, Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana, is a perfect companion to J'ai Ete Au Bal, the very entertaining movie about South Louisiana's Creole / Cajun music roots.

Some songs from Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana:

Josephine C'est Pas Ma Femme (Josephine Isn't My Wife), below performed by Clifton Chenier:

Blues a Bebe, below performed by Beausoleil. Immerse yourself:

"Bebe Carriere" referred to in the song is Joseph "Bebe" Carriere, a Lawtell Creole musician who popularized this song back in his own day in the 40s and 50s.

Blue Runner, also popularized by Bebe Carriere, performed below by D'Jalma Garnier:

Two versions of Joe Pitre a Deux Femmes (Joe Pitre Has Two Women), a lazy, sexy one by Creole musician, Canray Fontenot, and another, more vigorous one, by Zydeco band Motodude Zydeco:

In the documentary, you can watch John Delafose perform the song at Slim's Y-Ki-Ki in Opelousas. Speaking of John Delafose, he's interviewed in this movie and also in another, just-as-delightful film, The Kingdom of Zydeco. Mr. Delafose comes across as an unflappable guy who doesn't give a flip for what other folks might be doing; he's good with what he's doing. He says about his music: "I think about making everybody happy" when performing.

In both films, you see Mr. Delafose's son, Geno, as an adolescent. In Zydeco, you see Geno Delafose's famous smile, and you also see where he got it - from his mama, Jo-Ann Delafose.

Prominent names from the movie include:

In the musical context, the filmmakers focus on what they're calling the Cajun-Creole cultural renaissance, which took place mid-century-ish.

The documentary also delves into the Creole cultural of Opelousas, Lawtell, and some points a little west of here. It addresses some of the layers of exclusiveness/inclusiveness based on how light or dark one's complexion was. Viewers also learn about the Inseparable Friends Benevolent Society (IFBS), still active today. My understanding is that this organization was largely for Creole men (i.e. Afro-French) who were practicing Catholics.

Here's a 1966 audio-video recording of Canray Fontenot and Bois Sec Ardoin performing the Eunice Two Step and then Bonsoir Moreau.  Aiee, they can make you cry listening. If you go to youtube to watch it, read the comments, as well. Some family reunionizing going on in addition to what I see as a long-time cultural-identification-tension between Cajun-Creole and also the tension that exists in defining what it means to be Creole.

Look at Mr. Ardoin's foot go! Reminds me of another favorite foot-stomper, Wilson Savoy.

What comes shining through this documentary is the strong sense of family, community belonging, hard work, and that ol' joie de vivre that are intrinsic to the South Louisiana culture.

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