Intermusik Article - No. 10, October 2008
This article appeared in the German Intermusik Magazine prior to the festival in October 2008. Translation by Werner and Cora Dieckmann (thanks!)
5th Cajun & Zydeco Festival in Bristol
On one weekend in October, to be precise on the 3rd weekend, a remarkable event is happening on the British Isles that has become one of the most brilliant events of its kind for the international Cajun & Zydeco community – and it is happening for the fifth time already.
The event in question is the Cajun & Zydeco Festival in Bristol which will traditionally be taking place in and around the established venue of the “Folk House”.
The city which is situated on the river Avon is inhibited by about 380,000 people and is the eighth biggest city in the UK. Again it provides friends of Cajun and Zydeco with a versatile programme that might not only appeal to visitors from the Bristol area but also to those from further away.
What is especially charming about this festival is the opportunity to spend the whole weekend living with the music from the swamps of Louisiana and for some freaks to really let it all out. Not only are there concerts but you are also asked to participate yourself and that it is not only by playing some music in one of the popular jam sessions. You can express yourself by dancing – spontaneous or with some help from experienced dancers. Dance workshops will give you the necessary impulses.
And the festival caters to all senses: “A whole weekend – Louisiana-style – full of music, dancing, good food, drinks and meeting new people” is what the organizers promise to get those enthusiasts who love the excessive, freedom-loving Zydeco sounds to come to Bristol.
Besides the jam sessions and the culinary pleasures it is all about the lineup which might get some of those Cajun-Zydeco-lovers pretty excited.
After you have activated your motor functions with a dance workshop (“Taster Cajun Dance Workshop) on Friday night you will be able to put those new skills and formations you learned to the test right away: “Pain d’Mais” from France will be playing first. In the past the have made a name for themselves with their hot rock sounds at the Cajun & Zydeco festival in Gloucester (England) and the Cajun festival in Baasem and Soest (Germany). With Vincent Giarusso playing the fiddle, Alain Serres playing the guitar, bassist Oliver Sarreau, drummer Jean-Louis Laubry and Eric Martin playing the accordion this band is going to cook up a grooving mixture of Two-Steps, Waltzes, Zydeco and Cajun Blues.
Saturday starts with a “Zydeco Dance Workshop” led by Kay Anderson who is a well-known Cajun dancer at the festivals and especially noted for her monthly workshops in the Kent area.
After lunch the “K-Zee Zydeco Band” will give you the opportunity o put those dance moves to good use. They have been part of the festival from the beginning in 2004 and the organizers are happy to welcome them back for a fifth time. This combo of six with Ann Jackson (fiddle), Phil Rossiter (accordion), Steve Moore (drums), Nick Smirnoff (guitar), Phil Brown (bass) and Amanda Hersford (washboard) fits smoothly into the rhythmic program of the morning, as they embody Zydeco mixed with hot Country- and Swamprock quite literally: frisky dancing is part of their program.
The structure of the festival is easy to recognize: Dancing – concert – dancing…! Following the “K-Zee Zydeco Band” will be another dance workshop. This one will be about Cajun and
be headed by Carol Wilson. Carol Wilson’s Carol Wilson first discovered Cajun dancing in Los Angeles where by chance she saw CJ Chenier in a bar and to her amazement young couples got up to dance together! Since then she has made regular trips to Louisiana. As the drummer in the Cajun band Zigazag she has studied Cajun music and played with some of the top musicians there. Over the years Carol has also watched the changing nature of their dances. She has refined her own techniques and has taught at a number of festivals and classes throughout the UK and Europe. Carol aims to make her classes simple and accessible to all because “Dancing should be about having fun and enjoying the music.”
In musical terms the bar atmosphere is authentic for the following band. Characteristically named “Whiskey River Boys” these two musicians, Martin and Aidan, who – when not with their main English Zydeco-Cajun-band “Whiskey River” - pursue their interest in Louisana Swamp music from the south, Bluegrass and Country-Blues. In a casual bar atmosphere they invite everyone to a jam session, just a spontaneous session through all styles, it seems to come naturally to these “Whiskey River Boys”…
After the second part of Carol Wilson’s Cajun dance workshop on Sunday morning, it is time for the “Bearcats Trio”. Singer Chris Hall (he also plays the accordion), singer and fiddler Mitch Proctor and guitarist Murray Brailsford are well-known in the European scene by now and belong to England’s most famous bands. They are into traditional Cajun music with all their heart and will bring back remind listeners (and dancers) of the musical origins in the swamps…
Last but not least: “Joe Le Taxi & The Zydeco Band”! The French sounding name might be a reference to the music of the former French immigrants in Louisiana, but this group’s originates from somewhere else as is revealed by their motto: “Hot Zydeco dance music from the Welsh border!” They know their stuff when it comes to “Hardcore Louisiana Zydeco” and the Creole-Blues – having been influenced by the tunes of Zydeco-legend John Delafose, Boozoo Chavis and Bebe Carriere. These guys seem pretty bold, considering all the things they throw in the mix: a combination of Zydeco groove with “mantric” melodies and crazy love poetry. They mix it with their original sound, that has dance halls from Sidmouth to Shetland swinging and occasionally borrows a sound from other influential countries like Holland, France or Belgium!
For those of you who would like a taste of the Cajun lifestyle and want to explore the roots of Zydeco, although it means going to Bristol in England rather than to Louisiana, can find more information and contact details for your very own Zydeco-trip on the internet: www.bristolcajunfestival.com.