The History of the “Cajuns”

Louisiana marsh and white heron

Louisiana marsh and white heron

If you ever hear Cajun music you won’t soon forget it. Its rousing rhythms, foot stomping beat and sweet lyrics make it special, and THE COUNTRY CAJUNS play it that way. Most of them have played Cajun music for as long as they can remember. As Louisiana “Acadians”, it’s a music they grew up with.

 

WHAT IS A CAJUN?

The ACADIAN’S were French subjects in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. When Great Britain acquired their country in 1713 they wanted to remain loyal to their French homeland. The British ordered them to pay homage to the English Queen and to give up their Catholic religion. The Acadian’s (later shortened to “Cajuns”) refused and began what could be termed the longest “sit-in” in history. The disagreement lasted forty-two years until 1755. In September of that year the entire Acadian population, in all, over 10,000 people, was loaded onto prison boats . . . families were separated and their homes burned. They were sent to the colonies and the British Isles as prisoners of war. Many hundreds died en route, many more hundreds never saw their families again. Those who lived found hope in stories of a place far to the south where they could rebuild their homes and where their French language would be understood. As they escaped they made their way to the heart of Louisiana. On farms many could only see as unworkable swamp and barren grassland, they built their paradise.

It is this spirit of survival against all odds, a unique spirit that could only come from hardship, that gives Cajun music its own personality and character.

Today the Cajuns are very earthy, happy people and a lot of folks call their music “happy people music”. But if you could speak Cajun French you might be surprised at what the music has to say. The happy tunes often contain words of tragedy, the slow mournful ones might capture a story of joy. Their songs are about life, love, loss, home, family, death and “a fate worse than death”. . . life without love. The music almost always tells a tale or spins a yarn, but the best part is, you don’t have to understand to enjoy.

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