Monday, May 9, 2011

A Francophone Festival

"Excuse me," I asked of the gentleman seated next to me, "do you know the name of that selection?"

"I don't speak English," came the polite reply.

While this exchange may be somewhat rare among the audience at a performance of Cajun musicians, it does occur and is understandable given number of residents of Acadiana who speak Cajun French.

But given the number of French-speaking visitors attending the five-day Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, LA, this exchange borders on the commonplace.

Joining street musicians playing the Native American flute and the pan flute are musicians from Haiti, Columbia, Cape Verde, Belgium, India, Angola, Belize, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Le Grand Baton, "a multi-national group from Guadeloupe, blends jazz, fusion, and ethnic Gwoka music with quite a few twists." The more selections we listened to the more we enjoyed the twists mentioned in the group's bio.

One of the group's whose per-formance we really enjoyed was Surôit. "The four musicians are from Surôit, the Magdelen Islands in Quebec. The charm and originality of Suroît is born of a successful marriage of pure style of traditional music and modern sounds of today."

Some of the groups are scheduled for two performances during the Festival. We attended both of Surôit's performances. To our ear, there were the sounds of a sea chanty, with a bit of an Irish jig and Celtic influence, and sung in French.

We now have one of their 12 CDs and are looking for a couple more.

We caught a bit of Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band from Louisiana from the back of a very appreciative crowd.

Following the Zydeco band was Bomba Estereo (literally, "Stereo Bomb") from Columbia. "They call their sound 'psychedelic cumbia,' merging folk sounds from the Caribbean coast with electronica, reggae, and hip-hop dancing. Voted by the fans of MTV Iggy as one of The 25 Best New Bands in the World."

The festival celebrates the French culture shared by 55 countries worldwide, and Francophone nation artists join Cajun French artists from Louisiana to offer crafts, native dishes and live music.

These dancers among the crowd seemed to be performing a slow, almost ballet-like, dance.

As the evening wound down, we caught bits of two groups from the United States, Feufollet, from Louisiana, "among the most promising exponents of Cajun folk music for the past decade," and

March Fourth Marching Band. This "mobile giant band draws inspiration from an eclectic range of worldwide influences: eastern European gypsy brass, samba, funk Afro-beat, big band, jazz, and rock music."

Maybe I should learn a little French.

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