Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Et maintenant, un petit peu de musique Cajun

(And now a little bit of Cajun music).

Bonjour! I've blogged before about how I find YouTube endlessly fascinating. I've discovered that it's a virtually limitless video jukebox with samples of just about every kind of music imaginable (and some you can't imagine) available for the asking. The past few days I've had an inexplicable hankering for Cajun music, of all things—not sure why. I don't have any French ancestors that I know of, I'm not from Louisiana, and I don't have relatives there, but I've loved the music ever since I discovered it in college. I think the combination of joy and melancholy in the music is truly remarkable.The chaplain at my undergraduate school grew up in Southwest Louisiana, and could drop into a French-accented English patois in an instant. Maybe I'm thinking of him. Bob Martin, wherever you are, these are going out for you, cher.

Here are two selections by the Balfa Brothers. The Balfas are to Cajun music what Bill Monroe is to bluegrass or Chuck Berry is to rock and roll: giants of the genre, seminal artists without whom it would be impossible to understand the music properly. The first piece, "'tit Galop pour Mamou," is accompanied by what seems to be archival footage of floods in Louisiana in the 1930s and efforts to rebuild the levees after the flooding. I can't tell for sure because the title cards at the beginning of the clip are blurry and out of focus. The music, however, comes through loud and clear:

The second, "J'ai passé devant ta porte," (I passed by your door) is a characteristically melancholy Cajun waltz, a lament for forsaken love—but what fun the Cajuns have being melancholy! They seem to pour every ounce of their heartache into the song (including those long wails in the background) and you can't help feeling better after listening to it:

The person who posted this video even included lyrics in Cajun with an English translation:

J'ai passé devant ta porte,
J'ai crié, 'bye-bye, la belle.'
'Y a personne qui m'a répondu!
Oh yé yaille! Mon coeur fait mal...

I passed in front of your door.
I cried good-bye to my sweetheart.
No one answered me!
Oh, it hurts! My heart hurts...

Allons danser!

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