Broussard Avenue, Broussard insurance, Broussard attorney, Broussard gastroenterology, Broussard on every third mailbox, even a town called Broussard. Like the surname Yeager in Ohio, Meyer in New York, (or Fallon in Boston); Broussard is common lingo in Acadiana. Mike Broussard, President of the Cajun French Music (CFMA), explained his lineage over shrimp etoufee and jambalaya at Don’s, Louisiana’s First Cajun Restaurant. “Cajuns came here in the 1750s. First we went to the French territories in the Caribbean and then to Louisiana. Seven Broussard brothers came to Acadiana and split between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. They had many descendants.”
Mike was born and raised in Beaux Bridge, just east of Lafayette. The telephone company transferred him to Baton Rouge, then Munroe. “North of Alexandria is different; Monroe was culture shock to me.” He returned to the Hub City and retired in 2001. “Lafayette is the most hospitable place on earth.” Eighteen months later Mike went back to work for small-company but finally retired for good last fall.
“We Cajuns like to party. We work hard and party hard. In Baton Rouge, my wife and I heard about CFMA’s local dances, joined the club, and kept our membership when we moved back to Beaux Bridge.” Now, Mike is president of the organization’s eleven chapters, which span from southern Louisiana to Houston, San Antonio, even Chicago. “CFMA’s mission is to promote Cajun music and culture. Mardi Gras is rooted in Cajun culture. It started with big celebrations around Biloxi area, then NOLA took over.” From CFMA’s perspective, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras has strayed from its Cajun roots. The organization focuses on traditional celebrations like Courir de Mardi Gras, a rural pilgrimage where a band of locals in costume go from farm to farm to collect items for a collective celebration.
Those of us who hail from north of I-10 know Cajun culture through its music. “Most Cajun bands have five members. You have to have an accordion and a fiddle. Others add a steel guitar, bass, rhythm guitar, triangle, and drums.” Bands used to be all male, but many are now co-ed. “One has all girls but the drummer and Sheri Cormier’s the Queen of Cajun Music.” All Cajun songs have lyrics. Any musician can be the singer. “Vocals are done in French. Some musicians can’t even speak French, they just sing the hell out of it.”
Although just about every band produces CD’s, live performance is Cajun music’s soul; dances happen every weekend. “There are a lot more Cajun bands now than there were thirty years ago. Cajun music is a slow waltz or two step; Zydeco has a snappy beat. It comes from Black Americans and Creoles with Cajun influence. There are traditional songs and new songs; CFMA stresses new songs in the traditional styles.”
CFMA sponsors Le Cajun Festival, “a three day event that takes place the third weekend in August. On Thursday we have a dance with awards to children for French immersion and ‘Youth Night’ to celebrate new talent. Friday evening we present awards. Saturday is an all day dance: five bands from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., followed by a feast of pork stew, gumbo, hamburgers, and jambalaya. There’s no politics: just culture and music.”
I asked Mike why he thought Cajun music was increasing in popularity. “The music grows from the family. Parents and grandparents bring children to festivals from an early age. Young people play at our monthly meetings. It is an active music. We ask the children that win our awards what motivates them, and they talk about being introduced to this music by their parents.”
When I asked Mike if he played an instrument, he smiled. “I’m not a musician; I’m a dancer. I told my wife I want Cajun music at my funeral.”
How will we live tomorrow?