La Musique de la Maison



La Musique De La Maison – Women And Home Music In South Louisiana (Origin Jazz Library CD)


“La Musique de la Maison” is a rich and historic collection of rare French ballads sung by Cajun and Creole women. Many people are now familiar with the French dance music of Southwest Louisiana, but in there exists a parallel, more private side of French Louisiana music: the a cappella songs (solo unaccompanied voice).

Because of where they were usually performed, these songs are sometimes referred to as “home music”: A mother and daughter sit on the front porch at dusk; friends take a mid-afternoon respite around the fireplace or kitchen table; extended family gathers at a wedding, and the songs flow as freely as the libations.

Traditionally, women have been expected to present what was considered an upstanding example of social behavior. Public musical performance, especially in the context of the bar or dance hall, was considered unseemly. So, with the public arena essentially off-limits, private or home music was left wide open for feminine exploration.

Old ballads or epic songs, drinking songs, game songs, and lullabies were sung at bals de maisons (home parties), veillées (evening visits) and family gatherings. Men and women sat out on the front porch or around the fireplace and traded songs for entertainment. The younger generation learned from their elders, either directly or by eavesdropping on the adults singing at the top of their lungs. Some of these songs also functioned at dances as reels à bouche, or dances rondes during Lent when voices were used as substitutes for forbidden instruments.

The home music songs of French Louisiana are a wondrous collection of tales with images more vivid than any modern film. They are timeless, beautiful songs filled with intrigue, sex, grisly murder, drinking, lessons in morality, and a heaping portion of humor. While some date back to medieval France and others contain more modern influences of the New World, all these songs touch upon themes that are universal and as relevant today as yesteryear.

The singers are young and old and as varied as their songs. The recordings in La musique de la maison were made from the late 1940s to the 1970s by many renowned folklorists, including Harry Oster and Ralph Rinzler, who visited these singers at their homes, schools and parties.

The advent of radio and television in the 1950s opened other entertainment options for the families of this rural area, so unfortunately the home music tradition began to pass away with its practitioners. In recent years, though, there has been renewed interest in these wonderful old songs from young Louisiana singers and bands. This makes “La musique” all the more important in providing support to continue this magnificent tradition.

Includes liner notes by Lisa Richardson, Marce Lacouture, and Carolyn Dural


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