Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Accordion in Cajun Music

The Accordion in Cajun Music

By: Nadeeka Johnson

The accordion is an important part of Cajun Music. When, where, and who played the first Cajun accordion? You will probably get a different answer from each Cajun you ask. Controversy over who introduced the Cajun accordion is much debated.  Again, you will get different answers from different people. There is one thing that everyone will agree on.  It is no mystery that the accordion is the signature instrument of Cajun French music.  Every Cajun will tell you that, Cher!
The accordion was invented and eventually made its way to Louisiana in the late 1800’s.  The type of accordion used in most Louisiana Cajun music is a single row, diatonic accordion.   Since its’ loud notes carried effortlessly across the dance floors, it was the perfect sound for Cajun music.  The reed instrument did not have the tuning problems that you would normally have with stringed instruments.  Another plus was that the other musicians in the band could tune up to the accordions’ notes.  Fiddles became “second fiddles” so to speak and the music began to evolve.
No one talks of the great accordion players without mentioning Amede Ardoin.  Ardoin was a major influence on the development of both Cajun and Creole music.  Amede was an accordionist and half of the legendary duo which also included fiddler Dennis McGee.  Pre-World War I the bands were often of mixed races and theirs was no exception.  Amede was a Creole and Dennis a French-speaking man of Irish-Cajun heritage.  Playing white and Creole house parties across the region they made a name for themselves that lives on in their music today.
The end of each World War saw outside influence trickle into the mostly isolated bayou country of southern Louisiana.  The men returning home had experienced life outside of their usual stomping grounds.  Highways were being built and the steady influx of people from other parts of the country, were coming to Louisiana to be part of the oil boom spreading across state.   With different culture came different sound.
The accordion had a lull in its popularity immediately following World War II during what was known as the “String Band Era”.  Bands began showcasing the guitar and fiddle to the detriment of the accordion.  Steel guitars, bass and even banjos and mandolins were added to the musical line-up.  Drums and other percussion instruments showed-up.  The accordion virtually disappeared from Cajun music during the mid 1930’s until the 1950’s.
German-imported accordions once again became available after World War II.  Thanks to musicians such as Iry LeJeune, Aldus Roger, and Lawrence Walker, the accordion was back.  The fact that young musicians of our time are following in the footsteps of these men and perpetuating the tradition of accordion based Cajun music is proof that the accordion is still “first fiddle” in the band.

About the Author

Nadeeka Johnson is an experienced article writer with over a 1,000 articles covering a wid variety of topical written at

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