Cajun And Zydeco History And Development Drummers Guide

An appreciation and understanding of the differences between the two will aid in accurate and authentic performance of both. Cajuns ("Acadians," French Canadians exiled from Nova Scotia) came to central and southwest Louisiana in the 18th century. Cajun music revolved around the fiddle and the single row button accordion. Like a harmonica with bellows, the German style (single row button) accordion has a fixed and limited range, pro-harmonically and structurally simple music. Traditional Cajun rhythmic accompaniment involved stomping the floor on beats 1 and 3 (in 4/4 time) while playing a homemade triangle called the "tee frere" ("little brother"). In addition to 4/4 tunes, Cajun music includes many songs in waltz time (3/4), often subdivided into a 9/8 feel (3/4 with a triplet pulse) or played as a 3/4 shuffle (with an eighth note triplet pulse, but with the middle eighth note of the triplets omitted).

Zydeco has its roots in African and Caribbean music and the Creole culture (Creoles being the racially mixed offspring of Europeans, American Indians, and Africans). The two leading instruments in Zydeco are the multi row button accordion (which includes sharp and flat accidentals) or the keyboard accordion, and a percussion instrument called a "frottoir", a Rubboard often worn on the chest. Invented in the '40s by Willie Landry and accordion player Clifton Chenier (for his brother Cleveland Chenier), it has become Zydeco"s signature rhythmic voice. With the Rubboard up front and dictating the rhythm, the style evolved into a more up tempo music, with the drummer and bass player powerfully driving the band. Zydeco music is predominantly played in 4/4 (shuffled or straight), with fewer 3/4 (and far fewer 9/8) time signatures than Cajun music.

The term Zydeco is attributed to the accordion legend Clifton Chenier, who popularized the song "Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales" ("The Beans Aren't Salty"). "Les Haricots" (pronounced "lay zarico") evolved into the term Zydeco. Though the music maintained marked differences well into the 20th century, Cajun and Zydeco cultures began to blend as far back as the early 1900s when rural African American laborers invented "Jure," a style which mixed singing, praying, hand clapping, and dancing. Shortly after, Jure began to fuse with Cajun music to form "La La" (Creole French for "House Dance").

These early styles featured percussion instruments such as spoons, washboard with a notched stick, the fiddle, and the accordion. The influence of Country music and Rhythm & Blues in the early 1950s brought the electric guitar, electric bass, and drum set into the ensemble. Although Cajun and Zydeco music developed separately, by the mid 1980s both styles were often played by the same bands, some of which brought Cajun and Zydeco to worldwide recognition.

Its popularity continues as evidenced by Cajun and Zydeco festivals and acclaimed bands/musicians such as Beausoleil. As both styles are dance music, the role of the drummer is to establish a strong sense of time with a loud back beat. The most important characteristic in distinguishing between Cajun and Zydeco is that the Zydeco rhythm section is more active than the Cajun rhythm section.

Both Cajun and Zydeco incorporate a standard drum set format with the ride hand primarily playing the ride cymbal. Cajun and Zydeco bands often mix both genres freely when performing, but almost never within the same song. The tempo range is generally bright at quarter note = 160-240 bpm.

By Eric Starg. The difference between Drum Mics and Studio Drum Mics, along with different types of Drum Sticks is discussed at Drum Solo Artist forum.

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