A brief history of the Cajun culture and its musical development.


During the early 1700’s the French and British fought for 14 years, eventually leading to the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, which ceded an area of former French territory called Acadia (on the East coast of what is now Canada) to the British.


The French speaking Acadians (a.k.a. Cajuns) were allowed to keep their lands in return for giving allegiance to Britain. They refused, and after 45 years of friction and 7 more years of war several thousands of Cajuns were forcibly deported and were dispersed to other British colonies on the North Eastern seaboard, and 3,000 to France.


Louisiana was originally under French rule but was ceded to Spain in 1762. Under the Treaty of Paris, Cajuns were allowed to emigrate and in 1762 the first 200 arrived in New Orleans on the ship Santo Domingo.  They and subsequent arrivals mostly settled in the rural areas, but some remained in New Orleans, where they mixed with the Creoles, a diverse people of Spanish, French, Caribbean, and African descent.


Unique to New Orleans at the time, the slaves, Creoles and immigrants were allowed to gather and perform their music and dance on Sundays in Congo Square.


For over 250 years the Cajuns in Louisiana have preserved their heritage, using music, dance  and story telling. Until the late 19th century Cajun music was mostly played on fiddle and guitar but with German immigrant arrival, accordions became available, enabling Cajun and Creole musicians to use them in their dance bands. A ‘Tifer (Petit Fer - Cajun triangle) forged from the tines of an iron pitch fork was used to enhance the rhythms.


In 1928 ‘Allons a Lafayette’ became the first ever recording of a Cajun song, and with the first US national hit ‘Joli Blonde’ in 1946, awareness of Cajun music increased.


In the 1970s, Cajun bands like the Balfa Brothers appeared at US national festivals, and by the 1990s, with radio and TV coverage, it had spread to Europe, Japan and Britain. Cajun music was played live at Folk Festivals in the UK in the late 1980s, inspiring the establishment of UK Cajun bands, dance classes and specialist Cajun festivals - Gloucester had its first in 1993.