Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The NRR Project: Cajun-Creole Columbia recordings (1929)



NRR Project: Creole-Cajun Columbia recordings

 Creole-Cajun recordings

Performed by Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee

Recorded 1929

First of all, what is the difference between Creole and Cajun? These two words are bandied about indiscriminately. Creole refers to a person of mixed white and Black ancestry. Cajun refers to the not-necessarily Creole descendants of of the French-Canadian settlers who were displaced to southern Louisiana in the early 19th century.

Both cultures intersected with and influenced each other. This is most easy to distinguish by indulging in their musics. This selection epitomizes the fusion of styles in this collaboration between a Black accordionist and vocalist, Amede Ardoin, and Cajun violinist and singer Dennis McGee.

The music is vital, throbbing with energy and feeling. The words are sung in the Cajun patois, that evolution of French that took place when its speakers moved south. Their music was meant to be danced to, and they played at farms, houses, bars, and festivals.

Sadly, Amede Ardoion’s life was cut short by an act of racist violence. He asked anyone for a rag to wipe his face during a performance, and a white woman gave him her handkerchief. Two white men then vowed that he would never perform again. They followed him outside after the gig and beat him severely, leaving him brain-damaged and causing his death a few months later. He was only 44 years old.

I could not do better than the explanatory essay penned by Ann Savoy at the National Recording Registry website, which you should read here. I can only add that it is remarkable that, considering the state of race relations at the time, these two men were able to collaborate so freely and beautifully.

The National Recording Registry Project tracks one writer’s expedition through all the recordings in the National Recording Registry in chronological order. Next up: Light’s Golden Jubilee Celebration.

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