Annual Zydeco Festival to Offer a Cajun Gumbo of Sounds

Murphy Matthews remembers the rainy days of his youth growing up on a farm in Jeanerette, La., and the early days of zydeco music.

"We'd get up real early in the morning and go out looking for crawdads," Matthews said. "We'd put 'em in a pot to boil and sit around eating peanuts, popping corn, cracking on nuts and then somebody'd get a rub board, an accordion, a guitar and we'd start singing.

"Pretty soon all the sounds come together and you get the feeling and your feet get to moving and you're dancing."

This weekend, zydeco, the newest music to come out of the rich gumbo of Louisiana sound, arrives again in the area when the Cajun and Zydeco Festival opens at the Long Beach Rainbow Lagoon for the third year. Zydeco, the music of Louisiana's Creoles, has its origins in the swamps and farms of that state's backwoods and marries its rhythms to the sounds of Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and rock 'n' roll.

Los Angeles has a vibrant Creole community, said Matthews, 58, who moved from Louisiana to Carson in 1973 when jobs began drying up in the South. Today, Matthews, who works in the aerospace industry, is part of a Southern California Cajun and Creole community that numbers around 5,000, he said.

Half a dozen Catholic churches serve as a base for preserving the culture. The best bands out of Creole and Cajun country appear frequently on the church circuit, including John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys, and Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, Matthews said.

Both groups, and several others, will perform at the festival, which opens Saturday and continues Sunday.

Along with the music goes the Cajun waltz, Cajun two-step, Cajun hustle and zydeco jitterbug, which Matthews will teach at the festival.

The festival also includes barbecue, Cajun and Creole food ranging in price from $2.50 to $5.50, special workshops on Creole and Cajun culture, and continuous dancing.

Tickets cost $17.50 for adults, $15 for students and senior citizens 65 and older, and $5 for children ages 10 to 16. For ticket information, call (800) 675-2586. Volunteers are admitted free.

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