About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Did your Ancestor play Zydeco? - Glendale Folk Fest, part 2

I have already written about the Glendale, AZ Folk & Heritage Festival that took place on March 20-21. It was a wonderful experience for a number of reasons:

1) There was music for all ages and interests
2) There was instruction on how to play instruments as well as specific history
3) Many workshops gave participants a chance to be involved (playing or singing along, discussing, etc.)
4) There were ample opportunities and space for "jamming" (when musicians & singers get together and share songs, playing & singing together)
5) People learned about the types of music that have been part of different cultures for generations

Last time I talked about Butch and his saw and spoons workshops. This time I want to focus on #4 above.

While we enjoyed playing and singing and teaching, we also had a good time being in the audience. I wandered around and took photos on one day, catching a double-accordion Zydeco band (put together on the spot from players of this type of music). So I thought I'd share some of the photos of that group and info about that type of music. If your ancestors were Creole (specifically from SW Louisiana or SE Texas), they very well may have been Zydeco players. These musicians commonly use fiddles, accordions or concertinas, guitars, wash boards (or "rubboards"), and sometimes drums (or other percussion instruments), bass (guitar, upright, or wash-tub), and horns (sax, in particular). (The above photo also includes a mandolin - not necessarily traditional for a Zydeco band, but it sounded great!) The lively music entices listeners to get up and dance, making it an "audience participation" experience!

(Above: a little harmonica is added to the group)

While I did not record the band you see pictured here, you can find Zydeco on YouTube. Check out this one in Forst, LA; this in New York; this in Richmond, VA (my favorite Zydeco band: BeauSoleil); or even as far away as Bruges, Belgium! Lyrics are usually in French, but the rhythm is understood in any language! Clicking on any of those links will bring up many, many more bands all over the world, perpetuating that infectious sound. Or maybe you will get to a festival where the music is featured: either as a band on stage or like the one here - gathered together as strangers, sharing the music, leaving as friends.

If you want to learn a little about it, check out this Alan Lomax snip on YouTube. So sit back and listen to a little Cajon music from the Bayou Country! And if that's where your ancestors came from, you can connect with some of their musical spirit at the same time.

(This gentleman is "playing the water bottle" - the sides of which are "corrugated" and actually make a nice sound, except that he was drowned out by the rest of the band! But it's evidence that everyone wants to get in on the act!)


  1. Jean, Love it! I love the unusual instruments that you manage to find at the folk festivals. It is so much fun to make music with a group! Wish we could have been there!

  2. Thank you for featuring Zydeco music - I love Zydeco and Cajun music! (And as a linguist I love how Les Haricots Verts ... morphed into Zydeco.)

  3. I adore BeauSoleil and try to catch them whenever they are in town.