Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet turns 40

The veteran Cajun band is still evolving as it enters its fifth decade



In its 40-year career, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet has nabbed several Grammy Award nominations (and a couple of wins), produced two dozen albums, and remains a standard-bearer for Cajun music as it adapts and transforms with younger artists at the helm. Its 2015 Jazz Fest appearance celebrates its 40-year milestone, a celebration the band has taken on the road for a recent tour far outside its Lafayette home.

  The band was founded in 1975 when bandleader Doucet, then a Louisiana college student and rock 'n' roll fan, immersed himself in Louisiana and French music by using a Folk Arts Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study Cajun fiddle. The band's purposeful revival of Cajun music was instrumental in saving it, though it's hard to imagine Louisiana without an ever-present Cajun soundtrack. Following BeauSoleil's lead are a younger generation of bands including the Pine Leaf Boys and its progressive counterparts Feufollet and Lost Bayou Ramblers.

  BeauSoleil's first Grammy Award-winning album, 1996's L'Amour Ou la Folie, is a Cajun music tour-de-force. The win also was the first for any Cajun band and opened the doors for others in the Best Traditional Folk Album category (which later spun off into the short-lived category of Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album). The band also spans calypso, zydeco, blues and rock 'n' roll, as well as African and Caribbean influences. That fusion isn't meant to change the music, per se, but draw from the same pot in which Cajun and Creole music first developed. (Ever the student, in a 2014 story in Lafayette's The Daily Advertiser, Doucet recounted a recent trip to Cuba where he studied the similarities of Cuban Danzon music and early New Orleans music.) BeauSoleil's latest album, 2013's From Bamako to Carencro, takes it further, by bridging the namesake cities — Mali's West African rhythms to Louisiana's sonic palette — with the band's expansive repertoire.

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