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Zydeco • A Night at the Dance

Zydeco • A Night at the Dance

Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe
Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe
Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe
Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe
Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe +2
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Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe

“At home, we call it going to the dance,” said Chubby Carrier – son of legendary zydeco forebear Roy Carrier when asked about the regional and cultural significance of zydeco music. “When we play anywhere else – it’s just going to the show.”

Zydeco – a musical heritage developed in southwestern Louisiana by black French Creoles – is a unique cultural blend. While closely related to Cajun music, zydeco – a vibrant mixture of blues, rhythm, rhythm and blues, and traditional Creole styles – is very much its own.

Carrier, a third-generation player with over thirty-two years of experience across the country, says there is something unique about playing in Louisiana. The Bayou Swamp Band front-man and Grammy winner for his 2010 release, Zydeco Junkie – says that zydeco is something you’re born into, a tradition each generation passes to the next. “People at home know how to dance to it, do the two-stepping and everything; it’s just a part of who we are.”

The genre is perhaps a perfect amalgamation of the cultures of the Mississippi Delta and surrounding areas. Zydeco has shared roots in Afro-Caribbean and Acadian music forms combined into a music that is quick-paced and full of explosive energy, with most of its signature sound formed by the tag-team syncopation of the piano accordion and washboard. “The accordion is the life of the zydeco party,” admitted Carrier, having played the instrument since he was ten years old. Even with his own band’s sound comprised of elements of soul, rock, and other contemporary styles, the long-time player feels the zydeco style’s true essence lives through its historical roots. “Everything else – guitar, bass, you name it – is extra.”

Carrier’s thought agrees with folklorist Barry Ancelet’s research on zydeco artists’ tradition to play what they dub ‘du vrai’ zydeco – or ‘the real stuff.’ Comprised of French vocals, ‘du vrai’ is characterized by the rest of the band dropping out, leaving only the accordionist and percussion players to hammer out a strong, rhythmic staccato beat most listeners find nearly impossible not to move to.

Raised in the tradition alongside his siblings – including brother Troy Carrier, who plays under the name Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe – Chubby says that not having these connections for much of the last year has been especially difficult. “To a lot of people in Louisiana, saying you’re taking away zydeco, you might as well say you’re taking away our food, taking our souls. When venues and playing spaces started locking down last year, with nowhere to play, all I could think was: Oh man, I’m lost.”

According to Crystee Williams – local band manager representing acts such as Dikki Du and Dee Dee’s Cajun – live music’s reemergence couldn’t have come quick enough. “Lots of bands and artists that heavily rely on touring and gigs for their livelihoods have had a hard time adjusting since this time last year. A lot have turned to social media, online lessons, or PayPal events to make ends meet, but it’s not the same. A lot of the performance is based on the reactions and movements of dancers.”

Both Williams and Carrier agree: zydeco needs a live audience. “It’s good to see venue shows, private sets, and festivals coming back,” the band manager admitted. As vaccinations rise and governments begin to roll back restrictions, she is happy for the comeback – citing events such as Dikki Du’s Easter Sunday performances at the Red Bar in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and the Bayou Swamp Band’s show in New Iberia, Louisiana. She is excited for a busy summer schedule of shows and smaller festivals, such as Mudbug Fest in Shreveport and others. For many artists, the coming months offer opportunities to play that have not existed in well over a year. “It’s great to see venues opening a bit,” Williams said. “Even with limited tickets and social distancing guidelines in place, it’s so nice to hear the music again and see the community reemerging.”

To many players and patrons, the zydeco music experience is one that ‘keeps you young,’ be it in experiencing the music itself or participating in the rich, communal atmosphere surrounding most performances. With travel restrictions easing and many travelers remaining reticent to board a plane for longer trips, a short jaunt to Louisiana for a zydeco show might be a more feasible option – offering good food, good company, and a night ‘at the dance.’

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