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Zydeco is a form of uniquely American roots or folk music. It evolved in southwest Louisiana in the early 19th century from forms of "la la" Creole music. The rural Creoles of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas still sing in Louisiana Creole French. Zydeco combines elements of an even older American musical style which began in the late 1700s: Cajun music, which comprises French fiddle tunes, Irish Celtic fiddle tunes, German button accordion, Latin rhythms, and Appalachian styles. Zydeco music was born as a blend of Cajun music and two other "new" American music styles: blues and rhythm and blues. Usually fast tempo and dominated by the button or piano accordion and a form of a washboard known as a "rub-board," "scrub-board," "wash-board," or frottoir, zydeco music was originally created at house dances, where families and friends gathered for socializing. Creoles do not consider themselves part of the black culture, but rather a mixture of Haitian, Native American, French, and Spanish known as "Quadronne" or "four-way
What Does "Zydeco" Mean? - Story #1: The word "zydeco" has two different stories to explain it. One is that it comes from the phrase "Les haricots sont pas sales", meaning "the snap beans aren't salty". This phrase is a colloquial expression meaning that times are hard, and when spoken in the regional French, it's pronounced "zy-dee-co sohn..." etc. What Does "Zydeco" Mean? - Story #2: The second often-accepted meaning of the word "zydeco" is that it comes from the word "zari", which means dance. The word "zari" is found in several West African languages (in various similar forms).
Zydeco music is often portrayed incorrectly as being polka-esque, but it actually sounds much more like the blues than like any European music. The band plays heavily on the backbeat, with modern bands relying on a double-kick to the bass drum to emphasize the syncopation. The accordion plays blues licks, and the guitars further emphasize this sound. Zydeco Lyrics: Zydeco music is sung in both English and French, with English being the preferred language for most modern bands. Many zydeco songs are simply reworkings of R&B or blues songs, many are modern versions of very old Cajun songs, and many are originals. Song lyrics deal with everything from the mundane to intense socio-political issues, with food and love being two very common themes
Clifton Chenier."The King of Zydeco", made Zydeco popular on regional radio stations with his bluesy style and keyboard accordion Meanwhile, Creole music was being played in homes and at family gatherings, but it did not find a place with commercial record companies. Clifton Chenier, born in 1925, the son of sharecroppers near Opelousas, listened to the la-la music of his community performed by musicians like accordionist Claude Faulk and by his father, Joseph Chenier. Rubboards and triangles provided rhythm. He also listened to recordings from a decade earlier by Amédé Ardoin and to musicians who played the blues. After moving to Texas, he learned to play the piano accordion in the late 1940s. He and his older brother, Cleveland, who played the washboard, began to perform at Texas clubs as well as at clubs in Louisiana like Freeman Fontenot's club in Basile. Instead of a washboard, Cleveland began using corrugated tin, played at first with spoons and then with bottle openers. Clifton Chenier had a Port Arthur metal worker shape a board with shoulder straps, inventing the frottoir, the trademark instrument of Zydeco.
Zydeco superstar Buckwheat Zydeco was already well into his career, and also signed his deal with major label Island Records in the mid 1980s. Combined with the national popularity of Creole and Cajun food, and the feature film The Big Easy set in New Orleans, zydeco music had a revival. New artists were cultivated and the music took a more innovative direction for increased mainstream popularity.
Beau Jocque was a monumental songwriter and innovator who infused zydeco with powerful beats and bass lines in the 90s, adding striking production and elements of funk, hip-hop and rap.