Z is for Zydeco
Originating in southwestern Louisiana, zydeco is a form of fast-tempo music which combines jazz, blues, R&B, and traditional Cajun/Creole melodies. Zydeco’s folky roots are evidenced in its common use of a washboard as an instrument, and its prevalence at informal community dance gatherings. Whenever I hear this type of music, it reminds me of my first visit to New Orleans in April 2012, and a particular evening with my college friend Shanna which really cemented my love for the city. My mother and I went with a women’s travel group for a jazz festival in the French Quarter, which was excellent in its own right, but as a local Shanna felt it her duty to take me to Frenchman Street, just a few blocks off the tourist track but a world apart from what I had experienced earlier in the week. Here was the real, gritty, vibrant part of town, in which we hopped from bar to bar listening to different styles of music in each location, from swanky lounge acts to reggae to guitar-strumming singer-songwriters. The best part of the night was joining in on a random zydeco jam right in the middle of the street, dancing wildly with strangers to the sounds of bass, washboard, and freestyle vocals. If I were to venture what really sets apart an “experience,” I’d argue that it’s the emotional impact, and significance we ascribe to, moments like these. While tradition and convention have their place, it’s when we veer away from our beaten paths and give ourselves the freedom to explore that we can have the most fun and meaningful experiences–aesthetic or otherwise.