excerpt from Louisiana Diary 2009

Talking with Marc Savoy Saturday June 25th, Eunice Louisiana

 

After the jam session I managed to have a chat to Marc Savoy when the tourists had left. He was tired, without much energy( “I feel like a black hole”) but talkative.

 Marc is a great theorist and enthusiast of cultural discourse. He was indeed a black mood and began by complaining of the way in which  traditional Cajun culture is being ignored. He feels that we are in the grip of global culture, which means that everything becomes the same-Macdonalds,  Supermarkets, casinos etc. –modern mass culture of the U.S.A. levelling everything in its wake.

 Marc has seen so many friends and colleagues, all old-time musicians,  pass on over the last decade ,that  he feels a certain melancholy and, at times, a sense that the traditions are dying. He nonetheless maintains a great sense of humour and loves to play. He is , ironically, in great demand at festivals across the states. I distinctly felt a great sense of sadness in him as he witnesses the passing of the golden era of traditional Cajun music. “It’s a grey day for Cajun music”  I heard him say as he railed against corporatism, rock icons, “rap-co”(the latest zydeco style ) and even the young Cajun bands. He claims that many of them are changing the music to something else, making it too loud and too busy. He also laments the passing of the old dancehalls that used to be everywhere. Many have been pulled down and many just left derelict-I remember going to several 15 years ago and they were packed with dancers.

Marc Savoy is one of the greatest accordion virtuosos of his generation and has been building and playing accordions for over forty years. It is interesting to note his acute sense of loss at the older styles of Cajun music. Always a champion of traditional culture he has witnessed great change in  the way the music is played. His comments echo those of Ray Abshire  who laments the passing of the old ways and draws a distinct line between traditional styles and commercialism. For Marc, globalisation is the enemy of traditional home-grown culture  and the younger generations do not respect the traditions.

I wrote the following poem/song  about the disappearance of the Cajun dancehalls, which were once such a fixture in this part of Louisiana.

When they close the last dancehall

And they  bulldoze it down

And the music’s just a memory

In an small country town

When they  forget where they come from

And where they’re goin’ to

I’ll remember the old melodies

And curse the new

 

Now the wooden floor is empty

And the joint’s fallin’ down

And the nigh-times are silent

There’s nobody around

The wind is a’whistlin’

through the cracks in the door

the dancehall’s deserted

We won’t hear that kind of music any more

 

It’s a curious,complicated thing, this tension between the past and the future.It manifests itself in many ways. There is  nostalgia for the past and a longing for the way things used to be. Many  people tend to think of a past that maybe never existed. Other  people get trapped in the past-they don’t want to live in the present. Bill Monroe’s famous bluegrass ballad “I live in the Past” springs to mind. It is a song about lost love, about someone who can’t move on. We all  summon memories of  a glorious ,golden time when everything was just fine. Artists , poets and philosophers have always had great interest in the past   as art,songs  and ideas live outside of time. In the Classical world of Greece and Rome ,there was the  concept of a Golden Age where everything was in harmony. At the same time . there are tendencies to  be disparaging of the future , of the way things are heading . The  fear of the new and the unknown creates a kind of cultural vertigo where we go running back into the safety of tradition and the comfort of the past .