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Musical and cultural diversity reign this weekend

19th June 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Two-stepping, dancehall and merengue are some of the dances of choice this weekend at the Cajun-Zydeco Festival and the NOLA Caribbean Fest both being held on Saturday, June 24, and Sunday, June 25. The good news is that it’s possible to get your groove on at both.

The Cajun-Zydeco Festival, presented by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation in Armstrong Park, begins at 11 am each day with the final act hitting the stage at 5:45 pm. The Caribbean Fest to be held both indoors and outdoors at the Central City BBQ, 1201 South Rampart Street, starts at 5 pm in the evening and closes up about 10 p.m.

Mostly familiar names fill the bill at the Cajun-Zydeco Fest, which is a free event, as all of the participants are Louisiana artists. Many of them come from families who have been sharing their music and the culture of southwest Louisiana for decades.



Chubby Carrier, who closes out at the park at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, boasts being a third-generation zydeco musician with several of his cousins also carrying on the tradition. Carrier first began playing drums in his father’s, accordionist Roy Carrier Sr, band and continued as a rhythm man with accordionist/vocalist Terrance Simien.

Leading his own Bayou Swamp Band on a three-row, button accordion, Carrier is perhaps most noted for his ability to successfully deliver both tradition forms of zydeco and bringing in more modern elements as heard on his 2012 Grammy-winning release, Zydeco Junkie. Carrier also brings a soulfulness to his vocals as heard on his cover of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”

The always dynamic accordionist/vocalist Dwayne Dopsie, the son of the late, great Alton “Rockin’ Dopsie” Rubin Sr., is sure to warm up the crowd for Carrier as he hits the stage at 4:15 pm.

A highlight of Saturday’s line-up is D.L. Menard who’s rightfully renowned as the “Cajun Hank Williams.” The 85-year-old guitarist, vocalist, composer and noted chair maker, does a mean version of Williams’ classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and even met the legendary musician, who remains his greatest influence, way back in 1951. Menard, who performs with the Jambalaya Cajun Band that includes a steel guitar player, fiddler, accordionist, drummer and bassist, takes the stage at 5:45 p.m. Always attired in a sharp country western style outfit and cowboy hat, Menard has also some significant skills with a pen as displayed on his often requested and covered tune, “The Back Door.” Nominated for a Grammy in 1993, he took one home in 2010 for Happy Go Lucky.

Considering the line-up, this year’s edition of the NOLA Caribbean Fest could have included “International” in its title. Naturally, Jamaica is highly represented though there are also artists originating from throughout the Caribbean basin including its northernmost city, New Orleans. Percussionist Alexey Marti, who recently released his fine debut album as leader, Travesia, is a hugely talented native of Havana, Cuba and has lived and performed regularly in New Orleans since 2008. He leads his quartet at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Except for those deep in the know, others on the schedule could be viewed as more obscure. From the United Kingdom via Jamaica is Zyanigh whose recently release, “See You Cry,” displays his roots in the island nation. He’s followed on Saturday by vocalist, a native of Jamaica Etana, who delivers reggae music with a certain sophistication as heard on her 2014 album Rise.

Sunday the music travels to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago with the eight-piece Neptune Steel Pan Orchestra. It then heads to the Dominican Republic for the 10-piece Merengue 4. A new experience for some reggae lovers will hearing the socially and politically conscious lyrics typical in the genre sung in Spanish by Puerto Rico native I-Majesty.

Both Saturday and Sunday the Caribbean Festival closes out with a Dancehall Queen competition with the finalists going up against each other and the winner declared on Sunday night. Admission to the festival is $12 on Saturday and $10 on Sunday (plus a fee). The full schedule of the musical line-up and events plus further information is available on

Fine Jazz in its Birthplace

Great jazz performed in its birthplace offers a certain sense of space and time. On Saturday, June 24, Snug Harbor welcomes pianist and composer Jon Cowherd, a native of Kentucky and now New York resident who was in the Crescent City’s midst from 1988 to 1993 while studying music at Loyola University. It was there that he met drummer Brian Blade, an association that would lead to the pair forming the notable Brian Blade Fellowship that has enjoyed almost two decades of presenting superb music. Blade, a Louisiana native and again resident, joins Cowherd on the date along with the much called upon guitarist, Brooklynite Tom Guarna and our own superbly eclectic bassist James Singleton. Cowherd has contributed to a long list of recordings as a sideman including working with vocalist/composer Joni Mitchell. He stepped to the front to record under his own name for 2013’s release Mercy on which Blade is again behind the drums with the legendary Bill Frisell on guitar. With the combination of able musicians at Saturday’s show, it could be expected that the group revisits some of the material from Cowherd’s Mercy and perhaps works originating from the Fellowship.

This article originally published in the June 19, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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