BeauSoleil infuses Breckenridge with Cajun music and emotion
BRECKENRIDGE – BeauSoleil has not only preserved, but also revived the rich Cajun musical tradition. The authentic, Louisiana-based band has secured its position as the most popular Cajun group by infusing its music with history and emotion.
“A lot of my songs are about individuals and who they are and how they survived,” founder of BeauSoleil Michael Doucet said. “There’s plenty of traditional songs, but traditional songs don’t just fall out of the sky. Someone wrote them. (Often) the emotion, thought or event isn’t expressed, and that’s where I come in.”
Doucet grew up in the country west of LaFayette, La., and began retracing his ancestral roots after taking a folklore class that didn’t mention the Cajun tradition. Meanwhile, the changes of the Vietnam War caused Doucet to look more deeply at his culture.
“Everyone was confused and looking for heroes, and all we had to do was look in our backyard,” he said.
He sought out old-time fiddlers, such as Dennis McGee and Dewey Balfa, learned the music of his French-speaking grandparents and composed music from French and African sources.
He named his band after Joseph Broussard dit BeauSoleil, who helped establish early Cajun settlements in Louisiana after Acadians were forced from their homes in Nova Scotia in 1755.
Doucet’s goal included reclaiming the word “Cajun” from stereotypes.
“There was always a stigma and caricatures,” he said. “What we do is just make fun of it and say, “yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and turn it around and say, “Who’s eating the burnt red fish now? It’s not us.'”
BeauSoleil brings pride to the culture, not only by winning the band’s first Grammy Award for best traditional folk album in 1998, but also by continuing the tradition of French music. He began his quest 25 years ago, when the unique music, language, food and lifestyles of Cajuns were more a source of shame than pride.
“It was a shame from other people, not from us,” he said. “Music has definitely been the thread that has kept the culture together. (Our music is) historically correct and culturally exposed. This is the essence (of the culture). It makes people happy. Even the sad songs make people happy. Everyday life that you go through … that’s what really matters.”
In addition to preserving its rich musical traditions, BeauSoleil updates its sound with elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country, blues and more.
Doucet plays fiddle furiously next to his brother David Doucet on guitar. Jimmy Breaux plays accordion steeped in the Cajun tradition, while drummer Tommy Alesi and percussionist Billy Ware pound out a rich, rhythmic texture. Al Tharp adds an element of surprise with everything from banjo to bass to second fiddle.
“Just get your dancing shoes and get ready to go,” he said. “We play what we do in Louisiana. It’s not a show, but we definitely have a good time.”
Tickets are $17 in advance, $19 day of show and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
– When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7
– Where: Riverwalk
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