Occasionally you’ll hear the term “French music.”  It’s especially used by older Cajuns and Creoles to draw a distinction between English or “American music” and Cajun, Louisiana Creole and zydeco music sung in French.  From the view of south Louisiana, there’s the local French culture, and the surrounding, English-language or American culture.  “Les Americains” are the dominant culture.  It’s part of the social process of delineating local from outside culture and identifying with a group.  This is a classic function in minority-majority relations of all kinds: cultural, linguistic, professional, etc.  It’s usually studied in basic undergraduate sociology classes.  (A quick check of open course web sites at MIT, Yale, Carnegie Mellon and Notre Dame didn’t locate any courses on basic sociology.)

“French music” is used a a mark of distinction or derision depending on the involvement and identification of the speaker with the culture and the feelings of the speaker about the culture.  Younger Cajuns in the 1960s and 1970s used it derisively or with shame, when Cajuns and Creoles were held in low esteem.  This was the era of the term “coon ass.”  As pride in the French culture returned in the 1970s, and Cajuns became more open about their culture: its music, cuisine, folkways, and language.  This wave has damped somewhat, but we’re still living in its after affect.  Cajun and Creole cultures are held in relatively high regard, though not always understood well outside Louisiana.  Music and cooking have spread worldwide.  Most larger cities in the US have a Cajun restaurant and clubs where Cajun and zydeco bands stop while on tour.   There are even Cajun and zydeco dance enthusiast clubs around the U.S.

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