Friday 26th February 2016
The Auditorium, Sheffield University Students Union
and They Will Have to Kill Us First film documentary
Joel Savoy, Jesse Lége and The Cajun Country Revival
"Celebrating and lamenting the universal human experience against a backdrop of fiddles, accordions, stomping feet and plenty of that good ol’ moonshine."
Monday 30th May 2016, 7.00pm
The Greystones, Sheffield
Our first TalkingGigs event at the Greystones proved to be everything that we'd hoped for ... music, humour, insights and some very nimble dancing by members of the audience. Whereas some of the music that we've featured so far can be experienced sitting down, it was always clear that people were going to want to dance to this band ... after all that's where the music's origins lie. So with some adept chair moving at half time we managed to create a mini dance floor at the Greystones for the second half ... and (perhaps thanks to Nadine's quick lesson in the basics of the two-step and the waltz) it was well used!
We'd obviously programmed this gig at just the right time: Joel Savoy (pronounced as the French Savoir) was helping his father (the legendary Marc Savoy) to write a book on the history of Cajun. He and other members of the band were able to offer stories and insights which could have gone on all evening. Great questions from the audience led to a more detailed discussion about the relationship between Cajun and Zydeco. Even Graham Breakwell (long term afficianado and 'hosting' the chat) said that he'd learned a great deal and that several myths had been debunked!
And I was reminded of the John Spiers gig who had talked about the complexities of playing the melodeon, when the band recounted how Jesse enjoyed having to transpose keys for the songs that Nadine sang ... a case of pulling rather than squeezing!
Anyway, for a more insightful review of the gig I'm delighted to be able to reproduce the review that Danielle Mustarde posted on the ever-wonderful Now Then magazine blog ... original version available here. I'm also indebted to her for her brilliant photos! And I hope at some point to be able to post some music and visuals from the gig. Meanwhile, over to Danielle ...
Joel Savoy, Jesse Lége and the Cajun Country Revival, “a veritable super group of American roots musicians”, travelled from Louisiana, New Jersey and the remote Canadian Yukon, respectively, to the small and somewhat unknown backroom of The Greystones pub last month.
The gig was organised as part of the Talking Gigs series, which has seen the likes of the Vula Viel, Vieux farka Toure, Songhoy Blues and Hyelim Kim perform in intimate venues all around the city since the beginning of this year. Talking Gigs aims to bring “discovery through music”, giving artists a chance to speak about their music, culture and instruments and giving audiences the opportunity to take part in an informal Q&A before the artists then go on to perform. If you haven’t been to one before, think of it as a laid-back cultural exploration, where words and music, artist and audience intertwine and best of all, you get to enjoy it with a pint in hand.
The Cajun Country Revival was no exception to the tremendously popular series, selling out days before. Beginning with an introductory exploration of the roots of Cajun music led by expert in Cajun culture, Graham Breakwell, band members Joe Savoy, Jesse Lége, Nadine Landry and Stephen “Sammy” Lind, were given the chance to give the audience a taste of Cajun culture straight from the horse’s mouth.
“What makes Cajun music what it is today is that Louisiana is such a melting pot. It’s between New Orleans and Texas. There’s a lot going on in those places and we’re right between.” - Joel Savoy
Between the audience’s questions instruments were explored, songs were performed in both English and Cajun French and traditional couples dances were taught. If you don’t know the story behind the Cajun culture, with its roots in Acadian, French Canada and musical influences coming from French, Spanish, German and American traditions (to name just a few), look it up. It’s a wonderfully colourful story.
When asked to give an example of how Cajun music was traditionally performed, Grammy award-winning member Joel Savoy replied:
“[People would] be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to have a party this weekend, a house dance.’ They would take all of the furniture out of the house and whoever owned the house would be the ‘door guy’. He’d hire a [couple of] fiddle players, maybe a fiddle player and an accordion, put them up on the kitchen table somewhere in the house and everybody would […] dance in the round.”
This quote captures the essence of Cajun music as it was explained in the crowded back room of a small Sheffield pub that evening. It’s the coming together of people, celebrating and lamenting the universal human experience against a backdrop of fiddles, accordions, stomping feet and plenty of that good ol’ moonshine.
Photographs by Danielle Mustarde.