Let good times roll at Cajun & Creole Fest
After a two-year absence, the Cajun & Creole Festival returns to Miners Foundry Cultural Center Saturday with sets by the Creole Belles and Mark St. Mary and the Louisiana Blues & Zydeco Band.
Saturday’s audience members will be on their feet when her group plays amplified two-step, waltz and line dance music, according to fiddler and vocalist Delilah Lee Lewis of the Creole Belles, a Bay Area group that played at the festival in September 2002.
“Cajun music’s a powerful, energetic unique kind of music, it’s dance music, it makes you want to dance,” said Lewis last weekend from San Francisco. “Even though the words are sometimes tragically sad, it’s happy music. The rhythms make you want to tap your feet.”
For the past 25 years, Lewis has promoted the music originating from southwestern Louisiana. She became hooked on this genre when hearing it for the first time after graduating from nursing school.
“It was being played on KPFA, a public radio station, in the late ’70s,” Lewis said. “I didn’t even know Cajuns were people in Louisiana.” As a consequence of buying a violin and taking beginning lessons, she would soon learn otherwise.
“The first kind of music I ever learned was Cajun music. I was mostly listening to blues, jazz and country music; the closest thing my teacher knew was Cajun,” Lewis added. “I took six violin lessons and learned six Cajun songs.”
From those initial lessons, the registered nurse, then in her late 20s, embarked on a mission of sorts – to learn more about the genre by visiting Louisiana during vacations to meet the musicians she had listened to on records.
Within three years, the vacations turned into a three-year stay as Lewis found hospital jobs in Louisiana and, in her spare time, studied with Cajun and Creole masters.
Flash forward to 25 years later and the Cajun passion remains strong with Lewis.
The Creole Belles, which plays old-time traditional Cajun and Creole dance music about three times monthly on the West Coast, is also house band for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist’s Gallery at Fort Mason and has regular gigs at the Ashkenaz Music and Dance Cultural Center in Berkeley.
“This music is just part of my life. It’s become a huge part of my social life, and I’m very ingrained in the Cajun world. It’s the main kind of music I know. I totally love it,” Lewis said.
Mark St. Mary, who grew up in Lake Charles, La., and now lives in Sacramento, has been performing on accordion and vocals since 1975. His Louisiana Blues & Zydeco Band will also play traditional music.
The group’s songs are in English and Creole French.
Dale Johnson, host of the KVMR-89.5 FM radio show “Bayou Country” on Saturday afternoons, will lead dance lessons before each festival music set.
Ike’s Quarter Cafe will sell New Orleans menu items including Strawberry Spinach Salad, Cornmeal Crusted Oysters, Pecan Catfish with Green Onion Dressing, Red Beans and Rice, and Mississippi Mud Bottom Pie.
KNOW AND GO:
WHAT: Cajun & Creole Festival
WHEN: Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m.
WHERE: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St., Nevada City
ADMISSION: $10 general and $8 for seniors in advance, $12 at the door for all ages, free for children 12 and under. Tickets are at Harmony Books and Odyssey Books or by calling the cultural center at 265-5040
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