Cajun, Zydeco, & Blues: Different Music, Different Location, Same Time

No musical traditions better evoke the melting pot of this country than those of Cajun, Zydeco, and Blues. Each musical style emerged from peoples of multiple races and ethnicities; each of them feeding and evolving from each other.

Cajun culture has a history that goes as far back as the 1700’s. “Cajuns” are descendants of Acadians: French Canadians who immigrated to Louisiana from Acadia (now Nova Scotia). Their French Canadian roots blended with British and Spanish settlers as well as Native Americans and African Americans to become “Cajun.” Cajun music was dance music–primarily two-steps and waltzes–dominated by the fiddle (later adding the German accordion).

As Cajun culture was taking hold in Louisiana, in other areas of the South, African Americans were creating their own style of music. Born of work songs and spirituals, the Blues evolved, with its unique scale, 12-bar rhythm, and emotive guitar. Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, New Orleans and the Mississippi delta: different regions of the country each boasted their own brand of Blues.

By the 1940s, Blues and Cajun cultures evolved into Zydeco, where the accordion and rubboard–the “frottoir”–predominate, replacing the fiddle. The name comes from the term “les haricots” (the green beans). Both Cajun and Zydeco music are products of Southwest Louisiana, but the latter’s syncopated rhythms and jazz and R&B influences set it apart from its ancestor.

All three of these classic American musical styles are featured at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival.