Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beau Jocque, Zydeco's King

Easily the biggest new zydeco star of the 1990s, Beau Jocque heralded the rise
of the genre's new, urbanized style; infusing his high-octane sound
with elements of rock, soul, hip-hop and even reggae, he bridged the
gap between traditional Creole culture and contemporary music to create
a funky, bass-heavy hybrid calculated for maximum mainstream appeal.
Born Andrus Espre in Kinder, Louisiana in 1957, Jocque spent his early
adult years working as an electrician, but in 1987 he suffered a
serious back injury which left him paralyzed from the waist down for
over a year; during his recovery period he picked up his father's Cajun
accordion, but always bored by traditional zydeco, he set about
updating the music more to his own contemporary tastes. Jocque and his
wife Michelle then spent the next five years painstakingly researching
zydeco clubs, discovering which kinds of songs earned the greatest
response from patrons; at the same time he absorbed the music of Boozoo
Chavis, drawn by his propulsive rhythms.
Finnally, in 1991, he formed the Zydeco Hi-Rollers; the band was an
immediate smash in the New Orleans circuit, drawing huge audiences --
many of them new to the Creole dancehall scene -- captivated by their
hard-edged rhythms and Jocque's primal, cavernous vocals. A friendly
rivalry with Chavis also increased his notoriety, and in 1993, the
Hi-Rollers debuted with Beau Jocque Boogie, one of the best-selling
zydeco records of all time. Pick Up on This! followed in 1994, and a
year later they released the explosive live effort Git It, Beau
Jocque!, which featured the hit "Give Him Cornbread." Gonna Take You
Downtown appeared in 1996, followed two years later by Check It Out,
Lock It In, Crank It Up! Beau Jocque. (by Jason Ankeny)

Zydeco (pronounced Zah-dee-ko) is the most contemporary expression of black Creole music. Zydeco, born out of a music called "lala", is a unique form of Black-Creole music native to Southwest Louisiana. The music is said to have originated from many sources, but the influence of the blues and soul music is most significant in its development. The word "Zydeco" has also been translated to mean "snap bean."

The Zydeco tradition of music was built by musicians with little or no formal training who improvised the music of their generation out of the ones that came before them. Zydeco music was born in exile of ancient traditions which found themselves displaced in a New World where elder ways did not stand in the way of new combinations.
Zydeco bands are characterized fundamentally by the use of the "frottoir" (metal washboard) played with thimbles, spoons or bottle openers; and the use of the accordion and the singing of rhythm, blues and soul in Creole French.

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