Go HERE to read about some of the artists and listen to some of their music.

 Cajun and Zydeco music is, first and foremost, dance music. At the many Louisiana festivals, in the friendlyCajun and Zydeco dance halls and in many Cajun restaurants, you can hear live music and watch energetic dancers. Youcan also join the dancers. Novice dancers are always welcome and the "old timers" are happyto provide a little coaching for the beginner. Just ask one of the dancers on the floor for some help andbe prepared to "pass a good time".

The First Recordings

By the 1920s, with the development of the recording industry and of radio, both Cajun and Creole musicians were exposed to other music from outside Louisiana, and they also had their first opportunities to make their own recordings.

The older styles of music continued on at family gatherings, but the influence of mass media began to take hold. In 1928, Joe and Cleoma Falcon went toNew Orleans to make the first recording of Cajun music: "Allons à Lafayette" (released with "La valse qui m'a porté en terre" on the other side). Amédé Ardoin's first recordings were made with Dennis McGee in 1929, including "Two Step de Eunice," "Madame Atchen," and "La Valse à Abe." In 1929, Amédée Breaux on accordion with his brother, Orphy, on fiddle, with 
theirsister, Cleoma Breaux Falcon, recorded "Ma blonde est partie," the songthat become known as"Jolie Blonde," composed by Cleoma (or, in another version of the song's history, written by Amédée Breaux about his first wife). Ann Savoy, Barry Ancelet, and John Broven all provide additional details about these and other musicians who recorded the first Cajun and Creole music.

Both Cajun music and the Creole music that evolved into Zydeco are the products of a combination of influencesfound only in Southwest Louisiana. According to Alan Lomax in his notes to a CD collection of field recordings in Louisiana that he and his father, John Lomax, completed in the 1930s,"the Cajun and Creole traditions of Southwest Louisiana are unique in the blending of European, African, and Amerindian qualities."

Origins of Cajun Music as Barry Ancelet explains in his monograph Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development, the Acadians who came to Louisiana beginning in 1764 after their expulsion from Acadie (Nova Scotia ) in 1755 brought with them music that had its origins in France but that had already been changed by experiences in the 
New World through encounters with British settlers and Native Americans. Taking stories with European origins and changing them to refer to life in Louisiana or inventing their own tales, early balladeers would sing without accompaniment at family gathering or special occasions. The fiddle supplied music for dances, although Ancelet also describes a cappela dance tunes that relied on clapping and stomping to provide the rhythm.

The music of the Acadians in Louisiana in the 19th century was transformed by new influences: African rhythms, blues, and improvisational singing techniques as well as by other rhythms and singing styles from Native Americans. Some fiddle tunes and a few ballads came from Anglo-American sources. The Spanish even contributed a few melodies, including, according to Ancelet, the melody for "J’ai passé devant ta porte," which comes from a concerto for classical guitar.

The First Recordings

By the 1920s, with the development of the recording industry and of radio, both Cajun and Creole musicians were exposed to other music from outside Louisiana, and they also had their first opportunities to make theirown recordings. The older styles of music continued on at family gatherings, but the influence of mass media began to take hold. In 1928, Joe and Cleoma Falcon went to New Orleans to make the first recording of Cajunmusic: "Allons à Lafayette" (released with "La valse qui m'a porté en terre" on the other side). Amédé Ardoin's first recordings were made with Dennis McGee in 1929, including "Two Step de Eunice," "Madame Atchen," and"La Valse à Abe." In 1929, Amédée Breaux on accordion with his brother, Orphy, on fiddle, with their sister, Cleoma Breaux Falcon, recorded "Ma blonde est partie," the song that become known as "Jolie Blonde," composed by Cleoma (or, in another version of the song's history, written by Amédée Breaux about his firstwife). Ann Savoy, Barry Ancelet, and John Broven all provide additional details about these and other musicians who recorded the first Cajun and Creole music.

The Swing Era of Cajun Music

Meanwhile, the French language in Louisiana was already under attack: banned from schools in 1916, denied official status in the 1921 state constitution, deemed backward and a sign of ignorance by the Americans who came into the region with the growth of the oil industry, the constructionof better roads, and the gradual integrationof the region into the national economy. By the mid-1930s, the accordion was vanishing from the bands of Southwest Louisiana, and groups like the Hackberry Ramblers began to play in the Americanized style of the western swing and bluegrass bands heard on the radio. The Hackberry Ramblers were also the first group to use electrical amplification, and the electric steel guitar eventually found a place in Cajun bands. In 1946, Harry Choates, "the fiddle king of Cajun swing," recorded his version of "Jole Blon," turning it into a regional hit.

The Rise of Zydeco

Everyone agrees that the name Zydeco is derived from the phrase "les haricots sont pas salés": the snapbeansare not salty. Tisserand and Ben Sandmel both discuss the history of the word Zydeco and its variants like zordico.Barry Ancelet has an essay on the term in Creoles of Color of the Gulf South. For most listeners of Zydeco, however, the musical meaning is captured in Clifton Chenier's signature song, "Zydeco Sont Pas Salé," recorded in 1965 at the Gold Star studio in Houston.

Cajun Music in the Era of Rock 'n' Roll and CountryAs the 1950s moved along, and rock 'n' roll emerged on the national scene, Louisiana musicians with Cajun roots like Johnnie Allan (John A. Guillot) began to adapt, producing heir own style of what came to be known later as swamp pop. English writer John Broven describes swamp pop as "a unique combination of Cajun emotional feel, lingering hillbilly melodies, and refined New Orleans-style R&B musical backings." Other Cajuns were also adapting to the changes. Jimmy C. Newman of Mamou and Doug Kershaw of Jennings headed for Nashville, where they achieved success as country performers who drew on their Cajun heritage but sang n English. Musicians singing in French also moved toward more contemporary styles. Belton Richard, who started in a rock 'n' roll band in the late 1950s, switched to Cajun music but introduced a smoother vocal styling more in line with mainstream musical trends. With a singing style that has been compared to the style of Hank Williams,D.L. Menard produced a remarkable Cajun hit song in 1962, "La porte d'en arrière." Over the years, other Cajun bands have been influenced by the Nashville sound, and a number of bands have performed French versions of country hits.

The Return of Traditional Music

Different versions of these musical subgenres like Cajun-country continue until this day, but one more development is of crucial importance in shaping Cajun music. In 1964, Gladius Thibodeaux, Louis "Vinesse" LeJeune, and Dewey Balfa (who joined as a last minute replacement playing guitar) accepted an invitation to represent Louisiana performing 
traditional Cajun music at the Newport Folk Festival After their performance, hey received a standing ovation. As Barry Ancelet explains, the Newport organizers subsequently invited other traditional Louisiana musicians to he annual festival, including Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot, who, in subsequent decades, became the most prominent of the Creole musicians who kept their music from being totally eclipsed by Zydeco. The national attention spurred on the efforts of Cajun preservationistsl ike Revon Reed and Paul Tate, and Dewey Balfa now himself became a leader of the movement, convincing Ville Platte record producer Floyd Soileau in 1967 to begin releasing recordings 
of traditional Cajun music like the Balfa Brothers' versions of "La valse du bambocheur" and "Parlez-nous à boire."

In 1968, Louisiana finally officially recognized the value of its French heritage by establishing the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. In 1974, CODOFIL organized
the First Tribute to Cajun Music Festival in Lafayette, an annual gathering that has become Festivals Acadiens.

Wayne Toups, who has coined the name "Zydecajun" to describe his fusion of rock, Cajun, and Zydeco,has influenced a number of young musicians like Damon Troy who have a strong following among younger Cajuns. Toups sings in both French and English in a band that eliminates the fiddle and replaces the steel guitar with the electronic keyboard. 
Meanwhile, traditional Cajun dance bands like the Sundown Playboys that have been around for decades continue to perform, and young musicianslike Kevin Naquin have gained a wide following with bands that have thetraditional dance band instrumentation of accordion, fiddle, guitar, bass, steel guitar, and drums.Zydeco in the Spotlight While Cajun music was being reinvigorated in the 1970s and 1980s, Zydeco continued to attract new fans throughout the nation and beyond. Louisiana immigrants in California began to bring Zydeco to the West Coast. San Francisco-basedQueen Ida Guillory, originally from Lake Charles, won a Grammy for a 1982 album. Clifton Chenier continued to gain even more recognition, receiving a Grammy in 1983. Rockin' Sidney Semien's "My Toot Toot," released in an album in 1984 on Floyd Soileau's Maison de Soul label, sold more than a millioncopies and earned a Grammy. Buckwheat Zydeco, who emerged on his own in 1979 after playing keyboard with Clifton Chenier, achieved celebrity status, ultimately being chosen to perform during the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, an event witnessed by some 3 billion people.

In 1984, the return of Boozoo Chavis, whose 1954 "Paper in My Shoe" is considered to be the first Zydeco hit, led to a resurgence of rural Zydeco played with diatonic accordions and often sung in Creole French. As part of the revival of rural Zydeco, trailrides became part of the Zydeco scene. In the 21st century, Zydeco fans throughout Southwest Louisiana continue to spend the weekend camping, dancing o the music of Zydeco bands, and riding on horseback or in wagons across the countryside on trailrides. In the early 1990s, bands like Zydeco Force took the raw energy of rural Zydeco and added to it a new beat known as "double clutchin'." Meanwhile, younger Zydeco bands began 
to perform only in English, incorporating rap and other musical styles in their songs.However, at the same time, Geno Delafose began to achieve success both in SouthwestLouisiana and on national tours singing primarily in Creole French, playing songs from both the Creoleand Cajun repertoires, using his skills on the accordion to take music that may date back many years .

The Future of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco Music

No one can be sure of the future direction of Cajun, Creole, or Zydeco music, especially music performed in French. Twenty-five years ago in Eunice, it was common to hear French spoken everywhere. In stores orany other place where people gathered, conversations could be heard in both French and English. Today, in 2001, Harry Leger, for example, converses in French much of the day with the older customers in his Eunice barbershop, and throughout the region many older Cajuns who learned French before they learned English still feel more comfortable talking in French. But, based on casual observations, it seems that probably most Cajuns under 50, while they may understand French fairly well, do not speak it very often. Those under 40 are less likely to speak or understand much French, except for a few who grew up around their grandparents and communicated with them in French in their homes. Can French music continue to survive in a society in which only a decided minority of the population understands French? Or canthat minority begin to grow as children learn French in language immersionprograms offered by schools? The answer to those questions will determinewhat happens to French musicin Louisiana.

It is hard to imagine that the French music of Louisiana will ever die outcompletely: it is too beautiful, too emotionally powerful not to find performers who will keep it alive as folk music. And, as Southwest Louisianamoves forward into the new century, it is clear from the extensiveand still very incomplete listing of bands on LSUE's web site that there will be plentyof musiciansavailable to play at night clubs and other local venues that make the music part of people's everyday lives, part of their culture. But, whether, as the decades roll by, the culture of Southwest Louisiana will continue to value French music as it has in the past and still does todayis an open question. The answer will have to come from the people whose ancestors created themusic and who now have it in their power to determine whether their inheritance will be passed on to future generations.