Monday, April 30, 2012

Z: Zydeco, Cajun, or Zydecajun

So I ended up going to work yesterday.  Yes, the second weekend in a row, but that's okay.  I like who I worked with.  We listened to Zydeco and Cajun music all morning.  I was telling my co-workers how I was almost done with the A to Z challenge and my ideas for Z.  They said forget whatever you're going to write about. 
Z has to be Zydeco. 

Why did I say Cajun and Zydeco?  Aren't they the same thing you ask?  No.  They do have a similar sound, but Zydeco tends to have more of a blues feel due to the Black Creole influence.  The free men of color and freed slaves were influence by African music, as well as  Caribbean, Spanish, and European to make a completely new sound.  The term zydeco is most likely from a local phrase that means "the snap beans aren't salty", meaning times are hard.  The music was born at a time when life was hard for Creole people.  Zydeco  relies on a washboard and the piano style accordion. It is sung in English as much as French.

Cajun music on the other hand is still sung in French.  It gets it's origins from the French folk music brought from Canada during the Acadian Expulsion.  In Louisiana the music incorporated African and Spanish rhythms and music from Native Americans.  Cajun music uses the button style accordion and still employs the fiddle.  The guitar also has a more prominent role.

Then there's the more modern Zydecajun which combines the two.   Wayne Toups is the musician credited with coining this phrase.

In the 1910's and '20's Cajun music  was threatened due to prejudiced against the French speaking people. Cajun French was banned in schools.  People were looked down on for speaking it.  The culture was considered backward and uneducated.  Luckily, enough people kept the heritage and passed it down so that not all was lost.  Even today,though, Louisiana is continuing to recover from the stigma of that era. 

Many times people hear Zydeco or Cajun music and they think of ignorance.  Swamp People and getting wasted at Mardis Gras comes to mind.  Maybe some are more generous and they think of fishing and festivals and good eating.  The truth is, it's all Louisiana.   
Maybe after reading this, you'll think of a people as diverse as the music that identifies them. Maybe you'll want to know more about this people that has families and friends like the rest of the world.  They have educations and jobs.  They want better for their kids than they had.  They have as much right to be proud of their culture as anybody else does, if not more, for Louisiana culture is a story of not only of survival but also being able to enjoy life despite it's hardships.
To try to fully explain Louisiana music and it's origins is as complicated as trying to explain culture that gives it life. One thing, though, it's distinctive to Louisiana. To hear the music is to learn of the hardships, struggles, triumphs, and joys of the people it represents.
When people hear Zydeco or Cajun music, for good or bad, they immediately think Louisiana.  Does your culture have something unique to it? 

for more on the history of Louisiana muisc:
for more on the Cajuns and Acadian Expulsion:
for more on Creole Culture:


  1. Greetings!

    Trekking over during the last day of the A-Z Challenge!

    I am now your follower!

    I've never listened to Cajun or Zydeco music. It's always a plus to add new things to life's calendar; I really appreciate the information. I learned something new today!

    The video's were a plus!

    I do hope you will trek over to my blog and become one of my followers!

  2. Congrats - we made it through the challenge! :)

  3. Hi Bethie, I've never heard of Zydeco music so I've learnt something. The challenge is over, and its gone very quiet.

    Don't know about you, but I'm tired but still trotting round a few of the blogs as I felt quite guilty I couldn't make it around them all during the challenge.

    It was good fun...

  4. Thanks for the info on Zydeco. I didn't know what that was. It was mentioned in James Lee Burke's novel Jolie Blon's Bounce that I'm reading.

    Congratulations on completing the A to Z Challenge for 2012! Theme: A World of Crime