Atchafalaya Basin Research

Music inspired by Louisiana.

I’ve traveled throughout Louisiana and am inspired by the various styles and sounds of the state.  From classic Cajun to Creole Dance music and modern twists and interpretations. 

What is Cajun and Creole? Good question! The music and culture of Southern Louisiana really defies any lables or oversimplification. For a basic understanding, I will do my best to create a template to which further exploration is required. As with any culture, a visit to this dynamic and vibrant region is a must in ones lifetime.

Cajun: the term derives from Acadian, a group of people who came from France in the 1600’s to settle in Acadia, New France (now Nova Scotia, Canada). After the English established rule over Nova Scotia in the 1750’s, a large number of Acadians relocated to the Louisiana Territory where they settled in the Southwestern region of modern day Louisiana.

Creole: is another term that is hard to define as it can mean several different cultures, people and such. Generally speaking Creole was a term given to Francophones living in Louisiana who were not from Acadia. There are Spanish speaking Creole’s throughout the Carribean as well as French speaking Creole People from Haiti. For musical purposes, I will refer to Creole Dance Music as a style of music by people of African decent.

In Louisiana during the 19th and early 20th century, people often referred to themselves as White French and Black French. There were many barriers and conflicts in terms of racial, lingual and economics, but folks also came together and celebrated music, dance and food to create a unique culture.

Cajun Music started as fiddle dance music inspired by the 16 century French folk tunes that immigrants brought with them. Soon they were influenced by Carribean, Latin and American folk music which also led to Creole Dance music. The Accordion was made popular by German Music makers who imported the instrument to North America in the late 1800’s. Black and White musicians played this music and created variations of common tunes of the day. The goal was to make people dance in house parties or grange halls. Mid 20th Century brought amplification and electric instruments were incorporated as Rock and Roll started to factor into this music. Creole Dance music evolved into Zydeco, or Zydeco sont pas sale: meaning My beans have no salt…which was a play on food. Zydeco tends to differ from traditional Cajun or Creole dance music in that is incorporates full Rock and Roll ensemble of Drums, Bass, Electric Guitar, Washboard and Accordion. Today we have terms like “Swamp Rock” that takes all these elements and turns them into yet another unique style. The bottom line is that the goal of all this music is to make people dance!

New Orleans is a topic worthy entirely on its own. The city’s origin is French but being a port city it has had many influences and cultures from around the world. It is considered the birth place of Jazz and continues to be an international center for the arts.

Original Sketch on site, David Donar


Here are links to people and places that have inspired my work with Louisiana Culture…