A great specialty of the folk music of North America is that, like the nation itself, it is derived from several different cultures. When the Europeans migrated to the newly found American continent, they took with them the music of their lands. The music that we hear in North American nations as of today, is an evolved form of the music derived from several European folk traditions. The origin of Cajun music can be traced back to the Acadian colonists, who had settled down in the province of Acadia. This region stretched towards the east of Quebec, and included the Maritime provinces, parts of New England and Maine, and stretched till Philadelphia. The location of the colonies and a tinge of French colonial music has brilliantly shaped the Cajun music that we hear today.
What is Cajun Music
Cajun music cannot be simply defined as the music of Louisiana. Cajun music is a very sensitive genre of music with ballads, tales, and narrations characterizing the lyrics. The fiddle and the accordion are of utmost importance, and so is the triangle which keeps up the rhythm and tempo. The ballads are heavily influenced by French culture, and the texture of the songs often comes from sailors' compositions.
History of Cajun Music
In 1764, several French colonists and Acadians migrated to South Louisiana form Nova Scotia (Canada). During this period, the folk music of the United States was still undeveloped, and the new style found its way into the hearts of the people.
A major boost to Cajun musicians came in the 1800s, when increasing trade brought in accordions to Louisiana. The combination of fiddles and accordions led to the eventual development of one-octave, two-step compositions. The waltz, foxtrot, and some other beloved tempos were quickly adopted by the musicians and the dance culture of the West, and led to the development of highly infectious rhythms and melodies. In the years following the World Wars, the scenario drastically changed, as immigrations led to the influx of different musical patterns; country music, blues, and acoustic rock were introduced.
The first recorded song in Cajun music history is 'Let's go to Lafayette', which was recorded by Joe Falcon and Cleoma Falcon. In 1946, Harry Choates recorded the national hit Jolie Blonde.
The era following the 1960s is often referred to as the Renaissance in Cajun music. During this period, musicians were bent on preserving the French culture within the music and you will notice that songs written during this period were often influenced by the French language. The accordion was also used quite predominantly during this era. Jay Miller, Iry LeJeune, and Nathan Abshire are some of the successful artists of this era. The Newport Folk Festival is often credited for popularizing Cajun music in the latter half of 20th century.
The 1980s and 1990s saw artists like Wayne Toups, Carpenter Mary Chapin, and BeauSoleil belting out some amazing songs. This period also saw an influx of rock music and the introduction of acoustic guitars and drums.