Tuesday, February 3, 2009

[Country Roads] The Zydeco Hall of Fame

in the February 2009 issue of Country Roads

Architect and Louisiana music enthusiast Clarke Gernon, LSU photography professor Jeremiah Ariaz, and I sat in the back room of Poché’s Meat market in Breaux Bridge, eating delicious pork steak off of takeout plates during a dinner stop on our way to the Zydeco Hall of Fame in Lawtell. On the back wall of Poché’s dining hall is a tight cluster of deer heads. Jeremiah wondered if they had all the heads mounted before they got the building, or did they collect them to fill holes in the tight array. Tellingly, between two large deer that seemed the centerpieces of the collection was a “jackalope”—a rabbit with deer horns mounted on it. It seemed a fitting talisman for a night of rootsy zydeco.

Like that jackalope, zydeco is built of disparate parts that coexist in a given area but don’t seem like they should fit together. In it one finds the extended rhythms of New Orleans soul and funk comingled with the precision and odd instrumentation of Cajun music, namely accordion and washboard. In current practice, bands mutate it further with hip-hop identity schemes and the mechanics of modern R&B, played by African-Americans in cowboy hats and outsized belt buckles. No matter what you throw in, it remains distinctly zydeco.


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