The People The Acadian people were primarily immigrants from France that traveled by sea to settle the land in Canada. The Province was known as Nova Scotia. It was first settled in the early 17th century. Their capital was Port Royale which would later be changed to Annapolis Royal. In 1710 the British would lead an assault on Port Royal. After the conquest the British would deem the province a ‘French Speaking British Settlement’. It became strictly ruled by the British authority.
Le Grand Dérangement‘The Great Expulsion’ In 1754 The Great Expulsion began. The British empire would systematically remove between ten to twenty thousand Acadians during this process. Many settlers were sent to American colonies during the Indian-French War in 1754 -1763. They were sent to colonies such as: New England, New York, Virginia, and later Louisiana. Due to the difficulties of the transition to American colonies many Acadians attempted to return to Nova Scotia or return to France.
The Movement to the South of Louisiana During the time in which the Acadians began to settle in the South Central portion of Louisiana, 1755, the Germans and the Spanish were already there. The Cajun people that are still settled in this portion of Louisiana are a mixture of people that embraced the heritage and character of the Acadian people.
Early Music in Louisiana The traditional music that was brought to the Louisiana area was the Unaccompanied Ballad. They were traditionally about love and happiness, even though they had just been systematically removed from their home land. Many of these songs were sung at weddings and funerals. They were also sung informally for small groups at house parties. Many families had songs that were permanently attached to their names.
A Traditional Ballad This is a traditional Ballad sung by early Acadian Settlers in the south central portion of Louisiana called “J'ai passé devant ta porte.’’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d42xhqxAPfk&feature=related
The Fiddle The fiddle was the first instrument to be utilized by the Acadian people in Louisiana. The tradition of the fiddle was that there were two fiddles. One would play the melody whilst the other would provide the back-up portion of the song. Many of the first fiddle players had repertories of old French and Canadian fiddle tunes, delicate reels, and mazurkas.
Traditional Fiddle Songs One of the oldest traditional fiddle players of the 19th and 20th century was Dennis McGee. He was born in the late 1800’s and learned how to play the fiddle at a very young age. He learned the traditional songs and was one of the first to record the Cajun music that he and his partner AmedeArdoin created. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3RGhx9XK4E
The Change in Time As the times changed and new instruments were passing through the south portion of Louisiana the Cajun people began to adopt some of these instruments into their musical heritage. Some of the instruments were more incorporated than others but all of the instruments that make up Cajun bands of today were seen as great additions to the already popular music.
The Accordion The diatonic accordion became the most important additional to Cajun music at the turn of the 20th century. It created a change in the rhythm and chording of Cajun tunes. It became popular because of its powerful sound, was basically indestructible, and could be played at a basic level very easily.
TraditionalAccordion Songs The accordion was used to elevate the stylistic representations of Cajun Music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjWZ9OyYdj4
The Triangle The traditional Cajun triangle was made of iron of various thickness. The player uses an iron beater (made of the same material and at the same thickness) to produce the sound. Cajuns used this instrument for their percussion. This was because there was no such thing as amplification and this triangle would produce a wide range of tonality.
Traditional Triangle Song Many of the traditional triangle songs that were played were only accompanied by a singe fiddle or a pair of fiddles. The reason that the Cajun’s were so enthralled with the Triangle was that is was easiest to keep time and use instead of a percussion section of the band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng5WQ3CousU
The Washboard The washboard is an instrument that is used in addition to the traditional fiddle and accordion to add an additional percussion instrument. This instrument played with metal scrapers, thimbles, and many other tools. However, the traditional piece was played with a pair of spoons.
Washboard Music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig9rs5-hMeY&feature=related This is an example of a washboard being played by Cajun Musicians on a video recording. Note that the language they are singing in is not English but rather a French dialect spoken in Southern Louisiana.
Cajun Steel Guitar After World War II Cajun music adopted a new form of instrument, the Steel Guitar. The steel guitars were added to Cajun music because of their popularity in the Folk music and Honky-Tonk music where they were originally used. They added a certain melody to the harshness of early Cajun music which made it more popular within the states.
Example of Cajun Steel Guitar Many of the Cajun songs that included the Steel Guitar sound similar to songs of the very popular country western music of that time. The Steel Guitar was often played as a ‘Slide Guitar’ to give it a more melodic and harmonious sound. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QxUHtoTFGw&feature=related
Cajun Harmonica Again, after World War II the Cajun musicians adopted yet another instrument into their bands and music, the Harmonica.
Song of Cajun Harmonica The Harmonica was adopted because of its huge diversity in music and the amazing ranges that talented harmonica players could make with the instruments. It was traditionally used to accompany the original instruments such as the fiddle, the triangle, and the washboard while still being heard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnz030gDbRo
Cajun Music in the 1930’s One of the most popular Cajun musical group of the 1930’s was The Washboard Serenaders. They played a more up-beat style of the traditional Cajun music with the traditional instruments with the addition of a Kazoo. They have been featured in major motion pictures and are still popular among the Southern Louisiana Cajun people.
The Washboard Serenaders Although their music was more up beat and had more of a swing vibe to it the tradition of singing in groups and singing in Cajun French makes them one of the first Cajun bands to be featured in movies and radio. They spoke both English and Cajun French in their songs but they put them together in a way which made them extremely popular in the eyes of people outside of Southern Louisiana. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh7ozAfUKl4&feature=related
Cajun Music in the 1950’s During the 1950’s one of the most popular bands that played Cajun music was the Pine Grove Boys. They played traditional Cajun music with a traditional style band consisting of one Fiddle, one guitar, one triangle, and one accordion player. They are a close tie to the early Cajun songs that were sung in the late 1700’s.
Cajun Music in the 1960’s One of the most traditional of all of the musicians that play the traditional Cajun music Dewey Balfa was one of the greatest. He was a fiddler that was thought to be the closest link to the earliest forms of Cajun music. He played and sang in the traditional Cajun French and was around for a long time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B35NgCMTb28
Cajun Festivals in the United States Because of the rich tradition and heritage that Cajun Music holds there are lots of festivals where people meet to play music, new and old, and share their songs. Places outside of Louisiana are now holding events that display the Cajun culture from the traditional Acadian music with the simple Acadian instruments to the more modern style of Cajun music called Zydeco (zi-die-co) with all of the modern instruments. However, though the times have changed there is still a deep appreciation for the tradition and the history behind the music of the Southern Louisiana Cajun area.
Works Citied Bayou Vermilion District / Vermilionville : Preserving Natural & Cultural Resources http://www.bayouvermilion.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=131 Griffiths, Naomi. The Contexts of Acadian History, 1686-1784. Montreal, 1992. A fantastic overview of Acadian life and culture, including the Great Exile. Ruehl, Kim. Washboard (Instrument). About.com http://folkmusic.about.com/od/glossary/g/Washboard.htm Ruehl, Kim. Harmonica (Instrument). About.com http://folkmusic.about.com/od/glossary/g/Harmonica.htm Savoy, Ann. "Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana." Louisiana Living Traditions. 1999. Web. 21 July 2011. <http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creole_art_cajunmusic_aliv.html>.