Zydeco music originated in Southwest Louisiana and it was pioneered by the French Creole speakers. The music blends R&B, Blues and Cajun music. The songs are a reflection of the rural beginnings and the prevailing economic conditions that are reflected in the song titles, bluesy vocals and lyrics of Zydeco. The music developed as a synthesis of ancient Creole music, Afro-America traditions, Cajun music, Jazz, gospel, blues and R&B. The music was often called French music and the first recording was made in 1928. It was the Creole music that formed the foundation for the music that was later to be called Zydeco. Zydeco music was most performed in the catholic churches because most of the Creoles were catholic and it later moved to night clubs and rural dancehalls. During the Second World War with the Great Migration, most of the African-Americans and the Creoles, who were French speaking, had settled in Marksville and Louisiana. They later left for Texas in search for better economic activities. Others also migrated to California where the defense industries provided them with an opportunity for good jobs and provided them with an environment free from segregation. It was in these new states that there were several Zydeco and Cajun festivals that gave prominence to the music. The Zydeco music is considered as a genre of music that involve creaolization of the Cajun tunes (Browne and Browne 948). Chenier developed Zydeco music by just updating the other forms of Cajun music.
The music is usually played at a fast tempo and it is often dominated by piano accordion or the button and a kind of washboard that is referred to as scrub board, rub board or wash board. The music was created originally at house dancers where friends and families gathered together for socialization. Zydeco music integrated shuffles, two steps, shuffles, blues, and rock and roll as well as other musical forms of that time. The music today integrates other musical genres such as brass band, R&B, hip hop, ska, soul and Afro-Caribbean in addition to other traditional forms (Olivier and Ben 42)
Zydeco refers is a cultural hybrid referring a traditional music of the black Creoles. The music obtained its specific lyrics and language from the French roots while its African base provided the music with rhythm, syncopation and improvisation. Zydeco is therefore a deeply rooted and spirited part of the diverse musical and indigenous musical landscape of Louisiana (Broussard 17).
People playing the music
The popular Zydeco musicians included Donna Angelle, Zydeco Posse, Nathan and Buckwheat Zydeco. The main pioneers for the Zydeco music were Boozoo Chavis and Clifton Chenier (Broussard 18).
Clifton Chenier's involvement with the Zydeco genre
Clifton Chenier was born on June 1925 and he was a Creole native speaker from Louisiana. He was the prominent performer and recording artist of the Zydeco music. Chenier played Accordion and he won a Grammy award in 1893. He has won several awards and honors and he ahs also been inducted into Louisiana Hall of Fame. Chenier is referred to as the King of Zydeco while others also considered him as the king of the South. Chenier was instrumental in making Zydeco music commercially successful by giving it mainstream exposure. He also created band to be successful in perpetuating the legacy of the Zydeco music; the Red Hot Louisiana band kept Zydeco live (Wood 184).
Clifton Chenier’s life history
Chenier started his music career in the year 1954 by first signing with Elko records and started releasing several musical albums and records. All of his music produced and received mainstream success and this enabled him to make extensive tours. He signed with various recording labels with the first being Chess records from Chicago and at Arhoolie labels. Chenier had a marvelous style of playing the accordion, especially the blues accordion. Chenier was the first person to perform and to play at the Antone’s blues club in Texas and in the year 1976 he had reached a national audience when he premiered in the PBS music program the Austin City Limits. In the year 1979, he made a return with his Louisiana band. The popularity of Chenier peaked up in the year 1980s when he was honored with a Grammy Award for his phenomenal album in 1983. This was his first Grammy Award for his new label, the Alligator Records and he was only second to Queen Ida to win the Grammy Award from Louisiana (Wood 185).
Chenier is credited for his pioneer work of redesigning wood and crimped tin washboard and transforming it into vest frottoir; this is an instrument that hangs from the shoulders easily. Chenier and his band made several tours all over the world. His first music was the Clifton’s blues which was a great regional success. Clifton Chenier dies on 12th December, 1987 from diabetic complications. During the entirety of his musical career; he recorded much Zydeco music that influenced overall genres of Louisiana music (Wood 187).
Milestones in his career
Chenier idea to blend traditional Creole sounds with R&B was at first considered to be revolutionary. He was the first to record Zydeco genre of music’ this enabled him to virtually influence potential and incoming Zydeco artists who came after him. It was his use of the keyboard accordion and other instruments and saxophone. This made his band to develop a blend of modern sounds and folk; this paved way to similar musical experiments.
Clifton Chenier together with his band, the Red Hot Louisiana Band performed in several local night clubs, festivals, pubs and dances for business, corporate and organizations. He also made tours to international countries to entertain audience with his brand of music. It was Chenier who made Zydeco genre of music popular and though it was played by only Creoles, he made it gain international audience through his regular audience. During his entire musical career, Chenier won several awards and honors which included Grammy Award, National Heritage Fellowship Blues Hall of Fame Inductee and produced very many musical albums (Barion and Ana 49).
Clifton’s interests or philosophies
Clifton was considered as a hardworking musician who played music for a long duration during his performance. He entertained both local and international audiences. Chenier also enjoyed watching people dancing to his music. Chenier used the Zydeco music to create awareness and as an eloquent way of interpreting and describing Creole identity and consciousness as part of European and African tradition. This made the Creole culture to gain considerable attention both locally and international and exposed their plight. He used Creolized aesthetic to popularize the culture. Zydeco music is therefore considered as a symbol of Creole heritage (Barion and Ana 48).
Baron, Robert, and Ana C. Cara. Creolization As Cultural Creativity. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. Print.
Broussard, Sherry T. Louisiana's Zydeco. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia Pub, 2013. Print.
Browne, Ray B, and Pat Browne. Defining Concise Guide to United States Popular Culture. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2000. Print.
Olivier, Rick, and Ben Sandmel. Zydeco!Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1999. Print.
Wood, Roger. Texas Zydeco. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2006. Print.