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Salt on the snap peas

Buckwheat Zydeco brings flavor to Springs

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There's no need to travel to Creole country to get your zydeco on because the gritty, sweat-drenched, nonstop, rockin'-accordion-spoon-scrape-on-the-scrubboard sounds of Buckwheat Zydeco will enlighten fans at the Navajo Hogan Roadhouse on Saturday.

And who better to indoctrinate zydeco neophytes than the Creole accordionist who wears the crown of the zydeco empire, Mr. Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr.

Dural has taken zydeco from the bars, music festivals and community dances of south Louisiana and east Texas to a national stage; from both of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations to the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics. He was also the first zydeco artist to sign with a major record label, the first to play on national television and the first to be nominated for a Grammy. This is an impressive record given that zydeco nearly faded into obscurity in the early 20th century, relegated to recordings at the Smithsonian Institute.

Dural didn't always aspire to zydeco greatness. His musical career started at age 4 as a prodigy on the piano. By 9 he was playing professionally, and soon became an accomplished Hammond B-3 keyboardist, playing soul and R & B with Joe Tex, Barbara Lynn and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Nevertheless, he avoided zydeco as he considered it unhip, better left to his father and grandfather, both accordionists in the old zydeco tradition.

That changed in 1971 when Dural joined the late Clifton Chenier's band as an organist. Chenier ruled the genre as the undisputed "King of Zydeco" for four decades having invented the modern style by blending rock and R & B with traditional Creole dance music. In fact, he coined the term "zydeco" when he popularized the traditional Creole song "Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales" (The Snap Beans Aren't Salted), an allusion to hard times. "Les Haricots" morphed to "Zydeco" in Chenier's rendition and the term stuck.

Dural returned to his Creole roots under Chenier's influence and he started learning the accordion. It became a conscious decision to revitalize zydeco so that it would not stagnate into an indigenous folk music. As Chenier did decades earlier, Dural infused zydeco with rock, and blues and added a more urban sound using horns and synthesizers.

His decision has paid big dividends for all of zydeco despite purists' charges of commercialism. The once-obscure genre has broken free of the regional-music stigma, and now zydeco bands are found touring everywhere, sparking a veritable zydeco renaissance.

Be sure the house will rock when Buckwheat and crew come to the Springs. His booming hollers over the syncopated accordion will draw wallflowers to the dance floor like marionettes. With Buckwheat on the throne, the zydeco world will surely be able to enjoy salt on the snap beans.

-- Aaron Menza

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