Future of Zydeco is Simien 

Louisiana's Simien propelling native zydeco

Who: Terrance Simien

When: Wednesday, Feb. 22

Where: Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC)

Tickets: $20

In the mid 1950s, Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis put zydeco on the map. Buckwheat Zydeco carried the genre, originating from the Creole French speaking people of African descent who lived in Southwest Louisiana, to international acclaim in the 1980s. Zydeco legend Terrance Simien picks up the torch and for the past 25 years has pushed the genre’s limits right into mainstream listening.

The unique opportunity to journey both back and forward into zydeco music traditions returns to Whistler with a special performance from Simien on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC).

The Creole native from Louisiana draws from nearly 300 years of family tradition with ancestry in the southwestern part of the U.S. dating back to 1738. His family of simple farming folk up until the 1950s didn’t just play music — music instead was a way of life.

ð Music was all over, ð Simien explained of Louisiana. ð Music has always been a part of everything. My first exposure to zydeco was at church where they used to do these dance fundraisers. Of course we wouldn’t (play the music) inside the church, but there used to be a dance every weekend. I grew up hearing it like that. People in the community who had instruments I would go out and play with them. ð

The accordion player, who was rated one of the Top Ten Live Performance Acts of the Year by Billboard Magazine, never expected to leave the small community he grew up in, let alone travel the world playing his music for the past 25 years. A performance earlier this year to a crowd of 100,000 screaming Australians for Sydney Fest was Simien’s most memorable show to date.

However, with more than two decades of touring, the recording artist has plentiful memories to draw from, including touring with roots greats Los Lobos, pop sensation Robert Palmer and the famed the Dave Matthews Band as well as performing and recording with music luminary Paul Simon ð no small feat when considering zydeco is rarely acknowledged by mainstream listening.

His unique ancestral tradition has also made its way to the big screen after Simien co-wrote a song with Dennis Quaid for the film The Big Easy and also played alongside Stevie Wonder for now former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s second inaugural celebration at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. With features in the Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, VH-1 and CN Worldbeat, Simien is getting the zydeco experience out there.

ð I think these days you’ve got people becoming more educated music listeners who are discovering all different styles of music, ð he said. ð (Zydeco) is high energy, positive energy. You get some slower ballad stuff. It’s roots music. It’s dance, feel-good kind of music. It’s kind of like our own medicine. If we want to pick ourselves up, we go out and dance away to it. ð

Zydeco is characterized by its fast-paced syncopated rhythms dominated by two instruments: the accordion and scraping rub board.

Like most traditional music, the genre has shape shifted through the decades, constantly reinventing itself.

ð Jude was the earliest form, ð he said. ð People made music from clapping their hands, stomping their feet and using their voices. Different instruments were added to the music, the rub board and accordion. The sound began to change. Once electricity came to the area, electric instruments were added. I still think the most traditional part of music is that it evolves. It gives a flavour of the past but keeps you in the present. ð

Simien’s latest release The Tribute Sessions, honours the past and present with a tribute to 10 legendary artists through their own songs recorded on the album, interlaced with personal stories about each artist.

Tickets are $20. Call 604-932-2446 for advanced tickets.

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