Unpacking the Louisiana Ballad Tradition: Cajun and Creole Songs of Love, Loss and Drink on the West Texas Stage

Stacey Jocoy

Abstract


Modern Cajun music, Creole music, and Zydeco are often grouped together at festivals and dance halls throughout Louisiana and around the world. These music styles are considered distinct by scholars and fans, yet they are all the result of related generations of Creolization; the product of the variegated host of older localized styles created and impacted by patterns of immigration beginning in the eighteenth century. General audiences, from outside the Southwestern Louisiana area, experience this music as “traditional”: seemingly a closed style, particular to the people from that region and social culture. This perception, which has been both intentionally and unintentionally fostered over generations, has worked in a culturally exclusive fashion, creating stereotypes and socio-cultural barriers to understanding. These barriers can be mitigated, however, through performative study of the music, especially that of one of its integral genres, the ballad. Although ballads are not the first genre that most listeners associate with this region, as dance music by and large reigns supreme, songs with stories primarily of love, loss, and ameliorative drink form a notable backbone throughout this repertoire.


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