Alan Lomax

Cajun Country: Don't Drop the Potato

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One of the livelier parts of Alan Lomax's American Patchwork documentary series goes into Louisiana Cajun country, the seat of Cajun and zydeco music. Several leading figures appear in musical scenes, including Dewey Balfa, Dennis McGee (around 90 years old when this was filmed), Boozoo Chavis, and Michael Doucet. In addition to the music, basic narrative detail is provided on how the Cajun culture emerged from its roots in France and Acadia, and how it has come back from submersion after a time when the French language was banned from schools and increasing industrialization has changed the rural lifestyles of many Cajuns. Much time is also spent simply observing the milieu of Cajun life, the best of these scenes being the masked horsemen at a Cajun mardi gras. Especially moving are the recollections of how African-American Cajun/zydeco pioneer Amédé Ardoin was beaten to death at a dance after accepting a handkerchief from a white woman. Both moving and amusing is the interview with Dennis McGee's wife, in which she (with McGee present) talks about how hard it was to be a musician's wife.