A Toe-Tapping Tradition
Louisiana is one of the only states in the U.S. that can boast indigenous, popular music genres like jazz, Cajun, and zydeco. And in addition to these, Louisiana is home to notable contributions to American blues, country, and rock.
New Orleans has a special relationship with jazz and has been home to legends like Louis Armstrong. Today, a new generation of jazz musicians are honoring the tradition and adding their own unique sounds along the way including artists such as Trombone Shorty, Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins, Dirty Dozen, and Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band.
Outside of jazz, Cajun and zydeco music are perhaps more associated with Louisiana than any other musical genre.
Cajun music continues the musical and dancing traditions originally brought to Louisiana by The Acadians when they were exiled from Nova Scotia in the 1700s. The folk music incorporates the accordion, triangle and fiddle and can be heard in dance halls throughout southwestern Louisiana.
Zydeco, originally a blend of Louisiana French accordion music and Afro-Caribbean beats, almost always includes a washboard and an accordion and, like the blues, offered a way for the rural poor to escape hardships of life through music and dance. The music is a staple at local festivals like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Today, the genre has evolved further with influences from soul, rap, and reggae.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Spotted Cat Music Club in New Orleans
Live music at Tipitina's.
Cedric Watson performs Cajun & zydeco music.
While jazz, Cajun, and zydeco rule south Louisiana, country music is the heart of north Louisiana. The story of country music in Louisiana dates back to when KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, began broadcasting Louisiana Hayride after World War II. The show became known as “The Cradle of the Stars” for its role in launching the careers of artists such as Hank Williams, Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash, and even Elvis Presley. The show was held in the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, where visitors can still take a tour and talk across the stage graced by so many legends and where the iconic phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first coined.
Down-home, deep South blues is also to be found throughout the state. The Louisiana blues origins can be heard through its greats, such as Buddy Guy. And a new generation of performers is being nurtured by the state’s unique culture and music history including Tab Benoit, Larry Garner, Irma Thomas, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Explore these music genres, sample, the music, read about notable performers, and plan your tour of Louisiana’s music at LouisianaSoundtrack.com.