Six female Cajun and Creole musicians (May 2015. Acadiana Living).

 At the age of 18, musician Jamie Lynn Fontenot was overtaken by the desire to learn Cajun French. “My grandparents, Mary ‘Mimi’ Fontenot and John ‘Toe’ Fontenot, from Opelousas are great, really strong Cajun speakers,” says Fontenot from her home in Lafayette. “My siblings and I wanted them to teach us Cajun French, so she would play me all these old Cajun vinyl records, and she’d tell me the stories the singers were telling in the songs. I remember she bought me this Canray Fontenot record – a really great old-timey Cajun fiddle player – and I started learning French through the songs.”

Christine Balfa’s father Dewey Balfa, who led Mamou band the Balfa Brothers, was once surprised by his 8-year-old daughter’s desire to play Cajun music. “He was one of nine children, and six were boys. Five out of the six played music, and three toured as the Balfa Brothers … playing dances, then national and international concerts to aid the revival of different types of American folk music,” says Christine Balfa. “I heard it my whole life; it was a part of my upbringing. I heard such great music, not just from my family but from the people they played with: international musicians dad had met on the road, he’d invite them back home to jam … So I was exposed to different kinds of music, people and cultures, and that really shaped my music and who I am in a lot of different ways.” 

Louisiana historian Ann Savoy began the Grammy-nominated Magnolia Sisters traditional Cajun singing group with partner Jane Vidrine (guitar, fiddle, vocals) specifically to explore the feminine side of Cajun music. “It had a lot to do with proving that women can play music, too,” says Savoy, who has played music since the age of 10. “Cajun music and music in general is such a male-dominated field, we wanted to say ‘We can play a kicking dance too!’”


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