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.