What is zydeco?
This is what the dictionary says it is defined as: it is a heavily
syncopated dance music of Southern Louisiana containing elements of the blues and also as
white Cajun music.
The beginning of zydeco came about when rhythm and blues and jazz was played on the radio and on juke boxes in the late 1940's. This inspired Louisiana musicians. They eliminated the fiddle and brought in what is called a rubboard. The music of Creoles diverged from Cajun music from then on. Country Creoles combined the La La with blues and jazz of urban blacks. This created the rollicking and syncopated sounds of zydeco. Zydeco is acutally the most modern form of Creole music from Acadiana. It appeared after World War II.
The first modern zydeco song, "Paper in My Shoe," a regional hit, was recorded by Boozoo Chavis in 1954. He eventually left the zydeco music scene because of a royalty dispute. Then came Clifton Chenier who popularized songs like "Les Haricots Sont Pas SalÚs". This means "The Snap Beans Aren't Salty". In the past Creoles seasoned their food with salted meat and in hard times they were unable to purchase this satled meat because it became too expensive. That is the reason for that phrase. Chenier reigned over 30 years as the "King of Zydeco". He even earned a Grammy in 1984. Chenier brought zydeco music to international attention before his death in 1987.
In the mid 80's, BooZoo Chavis made his return and had a number of hits that helped start a zydeco revival that still exists today. From the mid 80's on, both Cajun and zydeco music and dance have become very popular worldwide. Despite the Americanation or commerccialization, zydeco still remains as the means of cultural expression for the Creoles of Acadiana.