Heart of Louisiana: Zydeco Jam

Heart of Louisiana: Zydeco Jam

OPELOUSAS, La. (WAFB) It’s high energy home-grown music, that grew out of the Cajun Prairie of southwest Louisiana.

The rhythmic rub board is part of the trademark sound of Zydeco.

“It started in the cotton fields and the potato fields. This is the way people had a good time after long week’s work,” said Herman Fuselier.

Herman Fuselier manages the St. Landry Parish tourist center near Opelousas, which calls itself the Zydeco capital of the world.

“I’m from the area and there’s cajun jams all over the place, Lafayette, all surrounding areas. [On] weekends [and] weekdays. But there were no Zydeco jams. It had been at least 10 years since I had been to a Zydeco jam,” said Fuselier.

On the second Saturday of the month, musicians show up at the visitors center along Interstate 49 to jam on some of their favorite Zydeco tunes.

“Probably in the 80s there was a concern that the music was dying out. A lot of the pioneers were dying, We all get older. So there was a push to, to kind of get the music revived and get the young people interested in it,” said Fuselier.

One of the great things about these jam sessions is that it gives younger players a chance to sit in with the more experienced musicians

Ryan Perkins is one of those young people. He’s learning Zydeco songs on the accordion, an interest he got from his grandfather. And now he’s a regular at the jam session.

“[It’s] an opportunity to kinda get involved with the music and things and interact with different players. Cause I didn’t [have the opportunity to play with] too many Zydeco players I actually met in person before, you know,” said Perkins.

One of the long-time Zydeco players is Joe Citizen who beats out the rhythm on a musical triangle that’s also a family heirloom.

“That triangle was made in a blacksmith shop by my great, great, great grandfather in 1775,” said Citizen.

Citizen is known as “Zydeco Joe.” He plays his triangle with two strikers.

“This is the way my daddy told me that his daddy was playing it and his daddy told him that that’s how his daddy was playing. So you hit one big one to the bottom and you come back to the top with it. You make it a double, a double small and big,” said Citizen.

Chuck Bush, who plays Zydeco professionally, says this type of music is growing in popularity, especially with younger people.

“I can safely say, um, it’ll never die cause they got young players coming up every day. Just about everybody can play the accordion,” said Citizen

And that’s what organizers of this monthly jam session are counting on, as they provide a place for people to play, learn, listen and enjoy the unique sound of zydeco.

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