Cajun music instruments
Cajun music instruments

I like to work out daily on our elliptical machine, or at least 5 times weekly for 30 minutes a session.  It beats taking a vigorous walk in often hot and humid Kentucky for up to an hour.  In contrast,  I can turn on the fan in the exercise room, plug in my iPod, and be serenated.  Lo and behold, exercise done!

One of the marvelous things about music is that there’s something out there for every taste and mood.  Most of us like a fast paced tempo when we’re trying to get the heart pulse up.  Lately, I’ve discovered that Cajun music with its dominant, happy mix of accordion, fiddle and triangle gives you real foot-stomping stuff, even if you can’t get into the French lyrics.  A vibrant variant reminiscent of the blues also exists, known as Zydeco.  It will remind  you of swing dancing and it’s both sexy and passionate!

There are a good number of Cajun bands out there and I don’t think you can really err in your selections, but I like Michael Doucet’s BeauSoleil the best.  He founded the group to try to stave off the decline of Cajun culture, especially its language, which remains an endangered species.  Back in 1950, half of the Cajun people spoke it as their language at home.  That’s declined to just 10% presently.  Cajun, by the way, comes from the French word, Acadian.

You probably know this, but the Cajuns are descendants of the former French colony known as Acadia in today’s Nova Scotia.  The British exiled them when they refused to accept British sovereignty in 1755.  Their homes and crops were burned and many family members separated.  Many, nearly a half, lost their lives at sea.  Their plight is memorialized in Longfellow’s Evangeline.

Ultimately, most of them settled in central and Southwest Louisiana (the Bayou country), preserving their culture for two centuries.  Cajun is the Acadian dialect of their forbears.   Louisiana today has about 700,000 Cajuns, though the vast majority are Anglicized.  Nonetheless, Cajun festivals are popular and frequent in Louisiana, with Lafayette their apex.

Be careful though about sampling Cajun music:  Like its spicy cuisine, its joie de vivre music can prove addictive.