Louisiana tradition contains remarkable culture that is important to conserve. One aspect, Cajun music, has been a staple of the south for generations. The Louisiana Swamp Stomp Music Series presented by the Cajun Music Preservation Society aims to provide high-energy traditional Cajun bands at various locations to keep the tradition of Cajun music alive.
It was recently announced that the Louisiana Swamp Stomp Festival was converted to the Louisiana Swamp Stomp Music Series. The festival brought traditional dance-hall style Cajun music to the region for many years. After the festival’s end, the Cajun Music Preservation Society felt that the region would benefit from traditional Cajun music throughout the year instead of a one-day festival in the Fall. The switch will provide high-energy traditional Cajun bands throughout the year at various locations and established festivals in the region. The shows in the series are free of charge.
The goal of the Cajun Music Preservation Society is to make traditional Cajun music available to the public as much as possible, which they believe the new music series will reach more people more often. The society was started in 2014 by locals Dr. Quenton Fontenot, Dr. Allyse Ferrara, Tysman Charpentier, and Misty McElroy. The group realized the area lacked true ‘Cajun’ music. Fontenot said he looked around online to see what Cajun bands were playing at festivals in the region, and out of 84 bands, none of them were true traditional music. “We saw that there was a need to promote local Cajun music, so that’s when we started the Cajun Music Preservation Society,” he said. There are three shows currently scheduled:
Strides are being taken to preserve Cajun music and keep the tradition going through generations. The society also hosts the family-friendly Cajun Jam on the first and third Wednesdays each month at Gina’s at the Legion in Thibodaux. The jam session is open to everyone of all ages. Fontenot said it doesn’t matter if someone has no experience playing; they welcome everyone interested in participating in the jam sessions and invite families to come to eat, dance, and enjoy traditional Cajun music.
The Cajun Music Preservation Society and The Louisiana Swamp Stomp Music Series are prime examples of enhancing the tradition of Cajun music and keeping the appreciation alive. For more information and to keep up with updates, visit the Cajun Music Preservation Society on Facebook.
Brief History of Cajun Music
The evolution of Cajun music began when the Acadians came to Louisiana beginning in 1764 after being banished from Nova Scotia. They brought with them music that originated in France but had been changed by experiences in the ‘New World’ through encounters with British settlers and Native Americans. They took stories with European origins and changed them to refer to life in Louisiana. They would create tales and sing without accompaniment at family gatherings and special occasions. The fiddle then supplied music for dances. The music of the Acadians in Louisiana in the 19th century was transformed by taking in new influences from African rhythms, blues, and improvisational singing techniques as well as rhythm and singing styles from Native Americans. The Spanish also contributed a few melodies to the mix.
According to Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People by Ann Allen Savoy, the accordion was brought to Louisiana in the late 19th century by German immigrants, but because the accordion was tuned in keys that did not match the “open string” tuning of the fiddlers, it was not incorporated into Cajun music at the time. The introduction of the accordion in Cajun music came around 1925 when they found an instrument whose sound carried well even during noisy dances.
Another major influence on Cajun music was Creole music. The Louisiana Creole Heritage Center defines Creoles as “people of mixed French, African, Spanish, and Native American ancestry, most of whom reside in or have familial ties to Louisiana.” Zydeco is considered “Creole music,” created and performed by Creoles. However, in the way the term is widely used today specifically about music, “Creole” usually describes music performed by Creoles in the Creole language, in the old style that includes the fiddle as part of the instrumentation, music is known in an earlier era as “la-la music.” The music of Creole culture drew on the same French traditions as Cajun music but added to that the influence of African music in the New World–the rhythms of the Caribbean or the soulful melodies of the blues or a combination of these sources and more.
Many of these influences come together to create the roots of Cajun music. As the ties grew stronger, the traditions of storytelling, singing, dancing, and playing music did as well. Louisiana’s Cajuns have kept the music alive and continue to stay true to its roots.