The Differences Between Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco Music

Musically, Louisiana has spurred three different movements: Cajun music, Creole music, and Zydeco music. So what are the differences between these Louisiana-style music varieties?

It’s true that for 150 years, the Cajun and Creole cultures, while coming from varied backgrounds and races, intermingled to form what was called French music coming out of southwest Louisiana. Many bands of the time were of mixed race, although the outlying culture remained racist and segregated. After World War I, when outside influences began to come into this rural part of Louisiana, Cajun music became more country western-oriented, incorporating instruments like the steel guitar. In the meantime, Creole music took its influences from popular music of the time, such as jazz, swing, and early R&B, mixing in the piano accordion.

In the 1950s, Creole Clifton Chenier split off from the norm and named his bluesy style of music Zydeco. Where the term came from is unclear. Instruments in Zydeco bands often include the accordion, modified washboard (a frottoir), electric guitar, bass, and drums.

You’ll see and hear all three styles of music at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival, taking place in Simi Valley, California. To learn more about the festival check out the Cajun & Blues Music Festival website.