BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler University
Saturday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m.
Many people forget that Louisiana is rooted in music older than the United States itself. A taste of this music history will be at Clowes Memorial Hall as BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet will be performing along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
The band's name comes from Joseph Broussard dit BeauSoleil, a leader of the Acadian resistance against the British and later patriarch of those exiled in Louisiana called Cajuns.
The band was formed in 1975 in Louisiana and gained an immediate following. They played on several American folk festivals and a two-week tour in France lasted three months. The band was then invited to play at the inauguration for President Carter.
"We didn't think anyone outside of Louisiana knew about this music. Nobody came to the aid of this party. We were the party. It was great to speak French with our peers in the '70s," said bandleader and fiddler Michael Doucet.
OK, a quick Cajun 101: Acadians began migrating into what is now Louisiana in the 1750s. Doucet said the land was already a melting pot before there was an official Melting Pot.
"Between the Cajuns, the Native Americans, the Africans and people from the Caribbean. All this plus the music from everyone's background began to blend together," he said.
"It's formed by the land and the unity. It's French-based and had survival tactics of the last 200 years. They're like pioneers. This was a no man's land and it goes back to the Civil War. Louisiana was the only state to secede from the Confederacy. It's a land of individuality and the close-knit families," Doucet said.
Cajun and Zydeco music are different. Cajuns are Acadians who are French and has more of a folk and country sound. Zydeco has roots in Creole (a combination of African and French) and the music can have an R&B sound. Fiddles and accordions are used in both styles of music.
"The music is shared here. It's great to live in a state that has two unique forms of music."
BeauSoleil turns 30 years old this year, has no chart topping hits and receives little airplay. Regular exposure on the radio show Prairie Home Companion, the film The Big Easy, playing every year of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and heavy touring have earned the band a global following. Doucet said the band ecently played at the Grand Ol' Opry for the first time.
"At first folks were nervous because we were singing in French. Soon after, they fell for the music. I think it's easy to see how people who love country could like our music," he said.
The band recently signed with Vanguard and released the album Gitane Cajun. There's also their DVD debut Live From The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Shout! Factory).
The music is rooted heavily in tradition and history, but it's also energetic, fun to listen to, danceable even for the most Caucasian of lip biters and side-to-side swayers. BeauSoleil is like most non-trends. They've been here all along. It's just more people are noticing.
"It will never be a commercial band. We have no intention of being commercial. We can't be J.J. Cale and wait for Clapton to steal our songs [Eric Clapton recorded Cale's "Cocaine"] and collect a check (laughs). I love J.J. Cale. I've jammed with him one night for over two hours during one of his shows. He's amazing with all of the songs he has written.
"Getting back to the band's image. You got to let go of the aspiration of what it should be and enjoy what it is. That's what's great about us. There is no road. We make the trail. You might as well enjoy it," Doucet said.
Tickets are $35/$25 adults; $30/$20 students and seniors. Pre-performance talk with Mark Buselli, director of jazz studies at Butler University, at 7:15 p.m. in the Krannert Room of Clowes.