Young musicians cling to Cajun, zydeco traditions

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm •  Published: April 26, 2013

Corey Ledet (pronounced LUH-day), another opening day act, said he can't remember a time when zydeco music wasn't a part of his life.

Ledet's great-grandfather played an upright bass, while his grandfather, father and uncle are drummers. He said his grandfather often played with Grammy-winning Creole and zydeco legend Clifton Chenier of Opelousas, La.

"It's in my family, all around me and it fell on me like a ton of bricks," said Ledet, of Parks, La. He said he's been playing both the accordion and drums for 22 of his 31 years. He said he feels obligated to do his part in keeping alive the musical traditions he's learned from elders in his family.

"I would like to see the tradition survive," he said. "I'd hate for ours to be the only one that dies off."

A Jazz Fest veteran, Ledet said he looks forward to the performance every year.

"The fans are just always fired up and ready to party. Rain or shine, it's one big, endless party," he said.

That party atmosphere fits right in with his genre of music, Ledet said.

"Creole and zydeco are basically happy music," he said. "It makes me feel good no matter what's going on in my life. And, it's very addictive. Once it gets in your blood, it's hard to get out."

Jazz Fest first-timer Suzi Peterson Steward of Ann Arbor, Mich., bobbed to the music as Ledet and his band played.

"I love zydeco. It's infectious. You can't stand still," she said.

Ledet said the festival also boosts his band's exposure. They've played Paris twice and have had gigs in Germany, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Hawaii and Alaska.

In all, hundreds of acts will perform over the next two festival weekends, covering genres such as Cajun, zydeco, jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop and gospel. Louisiana artists will perform among national headliners including Billy Joel, Hall and Oates, Kem, Maroon 5 and Fleetwood Mac.

On Friday, Dr. John, blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer, George Benson and Wayne Toups and his ZeDeCajun band were all scheduled to perform.

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Associated Press writer Chevel Johnson contributed to this report.