Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem

Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem
Fier d'être acadien - Proud to be acadian

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Rhythm, Roots, and a whole lot more

Labor Day weekend has become the unofficial end of summer, the start of a new school year, and a reminder that the holiday season (and snow) are not far off. For the past two years, I have been fortunate to attend the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown, RI. Spacious Ninigret Park is the host venue for the 3-day music, dance, and food festival.
The large open air Festival Stage lawn allows for blankets, chairs, canopies, and just about anything else families seem to roll in from the parking lot. Wind socks and flags of all sorts are the norm. The largest of these is an Acadian flag with a smaller Cajun flag beneath it. When I spoke with the flag’s owner, he mentioned he and his family had been attending the festival for years. He is in the boat building business. Utilizing his knowledge of masts and sails, he devised a telescoping pole for the large flags to fly high above the crowd and much higher than anyone else’s.

Vive l'Acadie
Festival Stage crowd


2012’s featured artist was Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band. (Mr. Laurie is most known for his television character "Dr. House"). To me, the act which followed was more interesting. La Bottine Souriante from Québec played a high-energy set in a light rain to close out Saturday’s schedule. They were featured at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Hugh Laurie
One of the highlights this year was the 25th Anniversary Celebration for Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. Founding and former members and friends of the Cajun band joined the current lineup for a heartfelt “Thank you” to the Rhode Island crowd who has cheered them for years. Steve mentioned playing Cajun music hasn't made him rich, but that he has a rich life.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Another popular attraction is the Dance Stage. Many musicians from Louisiana keep the crowd moving with authentic Cajun and Zydeco music. Last year, it was the Pine Leaf Boys, Jesse Legé & Bayou Brew, and Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic who dared the crowd to keep pace. This year’s equally high-end talent included The Revelers, Geno Delafosse & French Rockin’ Boogie, Feufollet, Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band, and the host band, Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole.

Pine Leaf Boys Crowd 
Dance Stage during the Day

Above are bands that sing in French; albeit a Cajun, Créole, or Québécois version not taught in New England public schools. Most of the folk, blues, and roots music at the festival is sung in English.
A wide variety of food vendors offer everything from steamed lobster, to wood oven pizza, to Greek gyros, to Louisiana inspired favorites blackened shrimp over jambalaya or a spicy crawfish boil.

Tent and RV camping is available, but spots should be reserved well in advance. The large, flat camping area was once a Naval Auxiliary Air Station. Setting up is quick and relatively easy. Chatting with other campers, you are bound to meet people from all over the Northeast States. The area becomes a quirky village of concert goers over the weekend (The festival sells 1,500 camping tickets). One group of old friends set up their tents and campers around a big top circus tent.

Wide open camping
My tent
Music is what brought me to the Rhythm and Roots Festival. The entire experience is what will keep me going back.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fête nationale des Acadiens

Fête nationale des Acadiens or National Acadian Day celebrates the Assumption of Mary and is held August 15 (commonly referred to as “quinze août” in Acadian communities). It has been celebrated since 1882 and was officially recognized by the Parliament of Canada in 2003.

As with most other Acadian celebrations, food, music, dance, and humor play a large role. Below are just some of the many events being held in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick in 2013:

Nova Scotia

Clare, Baie Sainte-Marie, July 27 – August 15

The “oldest Acadian festival in the world” is held each year in the District of Clare on the western tip of the peninsula. Some of the activities scheduled are performances by singer Lina Boudreau, a Lobster Supper, and even a Gumbo dinner paired with music from the Savoy Family Cajun Band.


Lower West Pubnico, August 15

Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse (Lower West Pubnico peninsula – between Wedgeport and Cape Sable Island) will hold an Acadian Picnic (free admission) on August 15.

Chéticamp, July 15 – August 15

The Acadian village located on the northwest tip of Cape Breton on the Cabot Trail is holding Le Festival de l’Escaouette. Please visit the website for a listing of the scheduled events.

Grand-Pré, August 15
Sociéte Promotion Grand-Pré, National Historic Site of Canada


Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Celebrating Acadian Days in Rustico, PEI, July 29 – August 23

Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, PEI

The musical ‘Evangeline’ performed June 26 – September 28

The Indian River Festival, Kensington, PEI, August 15 – ‘Celebrate Acadian Culture’ with workshops, food, and Acadian music.

Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island, August 13, “The Fascinating World of Acadian Genealogy”.

Souris Lighthouse, Annual Acadian Festival, August 10. Live entertainment, ice cream making, sand sculpting, and Acadian food will be served.

A cluster of Acadian villages in the central part of Prince County is referred to as the “Evangeline Region”. August 15th festivities will be held at the Mont-Carmel Community Hall.

New Brunswick

Celebrate the 50th annual Festival acadien de Caraquet, August 1-15. Known for the world’s largest Tintamarre, many popular Acadian musicians will perform including Lisa LeBlanc, Dominique Dupuis, George Belliveau, and Roch Voisine.

Miramichi Town Square, August 15, the group Suroît will perform.

The City of Moncton, August 14-18
Acadie Rock 2013
2 large outdoor shows featuring the likes of Radio Radio, Vishtèn, Les Hay Babies, and Lisa LeBlanc are sure to please younger audience members (Not your grandfather’s Acadian music).

These are but some of the many events held in Acadie. Look around when you visit. We’re closer than you think.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vishtèn plays the 2013 New Bedford Folk Festival

The weekend temperatures of over 90 degrees did not stop patrons at the New Bedford Folk Festival from listening to the Acadian songs of Vishtèn. The group performed in the air conditioning of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, as well as some outdoor tents throughout the festival grounds.
A short cellular phone video
The band has only three members; twin sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc from Prince Edward Island and Pascal Miousse from the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine). All play multiple instruments from flute to fiddle to feet and sing in three-part harmony. The music is a blend of Celtic and Acadian, but the lyrics are sung in French.
After the Saturday afternoon show, the group signed copies of their CDs. Although I have seen them play before, this was my first occasion to speak with them. It was like talking with old friends. Funny, humble, gracious, and charming are a few adjectives that come to mind. “Do people ask why you don’t sing in English”, I asked. Pastelle replied “Yes, they have asked, but I don’t think we ever thought about it”. Why would they? The songs are Acadian. They wouldn’t translate well or with the feeling they are meant to convey.
On Sunday, Vishtèn was joined on stage by Benoit Bourque and Son for a French Canadian Kitchen Party. The large outdoor crowd was treated to the singing, dancing, and comedy of both groups.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Beginning French Canadian Genealogy Class

By: Dennis Boudreau

When: Saturday, Oct 20, 2012 - 9:00 am to 12:00 noon.

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Class description:

Whether you're just starting out, need a refresher course in the basics of doing your family tree, or still have unanswered questions, the American-French Genealogical Society, 78 Earle Street, Woonsocket, RI is offering a course on Beginning French Canadian Genealogy in two parts on Saturday morning, October 20, 2012. The class, starting at 9 AM and running until about noon will be given by AFGS past President Dennis Boudreau, who has over 30 years as a professional genealogist, writer and researcher.

The course will cover all the basics from starting at home, organizing one's data, using the AFGS library's collections (with a quick tour), Internet resources, reading the religious/civil registers and census records, and migration patterns from Canada to the United States. It will also give an overview of sobriquets (Canadian surnames and nicknames), and using DNA findings. It will offer a quick how-to guide to unraveling blood and in-law dispensations found in marriage records, and how to recognize Native people in your ancestry, should they be present. And finally, the course will touch on the Acadians, since many Québec families claim several of these French Neutrals from the Canadian Maritimes in their ancestries. Additionally, Dennis will cover how to start compiling one's family history, collecting photographs, and properly documenting research findings.

Following the lecture, Mr. Boudreau, as well as other AFGS staff volunteers, will be available to help participants get started on their family tree using the library's vast resources.

Please register at the library, or E-mail your registration to sign up for this valuable 3-hour course. You may also E-mail any questions you may have concerning this workshop. AFGS members and guests may attend at no charge; a fee of $5 will be charged to guests (non AFGS Members) who stay to use the library following the lecture.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Breathing New Life Into Cajun Music

Living in New England, we are fortunate to have a few venues offering live music events throughout the summer. The Lowell Folk Festival in late July is an affordable (free), family-friendly weekend of great musicians from around the world performing on multiple stages throughout the downtown location. There are food tents to satisfy everyone's taste, games for the kids, and refurbished locomotives offering train rides. Most of the performance tents have seating available for patrons, but some choose to bring a blanket or chair.

One of the highlights for me this year was the young Cajun band Feufollet (pronounced FOO-FILLAY) from Lafayette, Louisiana. I heard two of the five shows they played over the 3-day festival. The seats were all filled before the first show, so I sat on the ground in front of the stage. The empty dance floor behind me did not remain that way for long. When the band kicked off the set with an upbeat Cajun instrumental, young and old alike jumped to the dance floor.

View from my seat

Click here for a short cell phone video of this performance

I never know what the crowd reaction will be when a group who sings in French performs here. Thankfully, I have yet to see an audience be unreceptive. Although most do not understand the lyrics, they enjoy the rhythm, energy and humor of Acadian, French Canadian and Cajun music. A young woman dancing with her Mom saw me singing along with the band. She asked how I knew the words. I told her I bought Feufollet's latest album, En Couleurs, over a year ago. In 2011, En Couleurs was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Cajun or Zydeco category. That's quite an accomplishment for a group whose average age is about 25.

After the first set, the band met with people at the merchandise tent. They were all smiles, making jokes and asking how the crowd enjoyed the show. Each took time to speak with people while they signed CDs.

Their laid back performance style is not just for appearance. It's who they are, polished musicians comfortable in their ability to alter old Cajun standards and make them their own. Unlike some Cajun groups today, Feufollet is not a karaoke machine. Growing up in the heart of Acadiana, they are able to interpret the older music because they understand where it came from. They also write their own original Cajun tunes, play Creole and Zydeco songs, and change instruments regularly during the set.

My view of the 2nd tent

Click hear for a short video of this performance
For another article and a more professional video of Feufollet playing one of their favorite places in Lafayette, click here to visit Valcour Records.

Today's Pop music is mostly digitized, remastered, re-recorded fluff for the iPad generation. If you like real musicians playing actual instruments LIVE, than check out bands like Feufollet, The Pine Leaf Boys, and Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys when they play around New England. You will not be disappointed... and don't forget your dancing shoes.


Friday, July 13, 2012

We Are Cajun. (On est Cadien'.) A Documentary Film

Once in a while, I am inclined to get behind a worthy cause. I believe in this film being made and have donated. The short introduction offers many reasons why the documentary should be made. Those unfamiliar with the Cajun culture and history will be amazed. The television program "Swamp People" is a very small portion of the unique, blended society of modern Cajuns today.

Click here to go to the Kickstarter campaign page

If Allen Clements can raise the necessary funds, his documentary will raise awareness and create interest in all things Cajun. After all, it's not just a culinary tradition, it's a way of life. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

For more information about the project, visit this facebook page:

The Results:
There was a lot of interest in the concept of the documentary, but the Kickstarter Campaign was less than the required amount. 116 backers pledged $4,784. To read Mr. Clements thoughts and press interviews about this project going forward, click here: Press Success for We Are Cajun


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Foremost Acadian Genealogist

The Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes is very familiar to people who have spent time researching their Acadian ancestors. The author of the 2-volume set is University of Moncton genealogist Stephen A. White.

Use this Link for his biography written by a friend of ours.

We are pleased to announce he will be our guest at the
American-French Genealogical Society.

March 25, 2012 from 2 – 4 pm.

He will be speaking about two topics which should interest our members:
“The Acadians in Canada During the 18th Century” and
“The Acadian Exiles Who Remained in Massachusetts and Connecticut

This event is sponsored, in part, by a generous gift given to our Society by the (former) Acadian Cultural Society.

A donation of $10 to the AFGS Building Fund is appreciated.