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Photo of a Creole accordionist, 1971
Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin, Creole accordionist, 1971

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Louisiana French Music: The Heart & Soul of Acadiana
A Local Legacy

Louisiana French music is a blend of many influences. Cajuns are descendants of French Catholics who settled in what is now Nova Scotia, Canada, in the 1600s (during this time, Nova Scotia was called Acadia). These Acadians brought their French folk music with them, mostly ballads and instrumental music for dancing, which they loved to do. Their favorite instrument was the fiddle because it was loud enough to be heard over dancers' shuffling feet.

In the 1750s, the British took over Acadia, and the Acadians were forced to leave. Many escaped to Louisiana, where other French-speaking people already lived. The people from Canada were known as "Cajuns" (if you leave off the "A" in Acadian, and say "Cadian" rapidly, it sounds like "Cajun"). The Cajuns took up farming, trapping, and fishing, often living in isolated swamp areas. Their music was influenced by their new Spanish, German, African, Celtic, Native American, and Caribbean neighbors, who also made Louisiana their home. By the 1920s, accordions became popular, and they were also used in Cajun and Creole music because they were loud and could be easily heard.

Today, Cajun music is popular not only in Louisiana but also nationwide. Cajun music is distinctively American because America is one of the few places in the world where so many people of different heritages settled. This mix of people is what makes our nation's culture so interesting.

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