The next day saw me scenically driving.
To what city was I scenically driving? Why, New Orleans.
New Orleans! A historic city in the development of American music. Also a prominent target for hurricanes. I arrived as they were recovering from Gustav, but things seemed to be pretty well in hand. Some people were still without power, but they had an astronomical number of electrical teams from all over the country working on it, so they would not be powerless for much longer. Most of the neighborhoods had been cleaned up pretty well, and the only evidence I saw of a recent disaster was the broken trees, and piles of tree parts lining the sidewalks.
New Orleans is also the home of Michael Raeder, a zydeco/cajun musician and enthusiast.
Mike plays a wide variety of instruments and has been playing with various cajun bands and musicians since he moved to New Orleans, picking up many of the genre-typical instruments along the way. First we put down some of the accordion (pictured above), then we moved on to some percussion, such as rub board, which is very loud.
He also put down some triangle, which has some other name in the zydeco/cajun circuit, where most everything is still in old French. And after that, some electric guitar. It was a busy evening, and Mike’s family was very helpful in being quiet, like little mice. Except for one very loud incident.
They also graciously treated me to dinner and offered me a place to stay. Furthermore, and I swear this was the real conversation:
Mike, out of the blue: Do you like Mojitos?
Me: … (in shock)
Mike: If not, that’s fine, but we grow our own mint so we could make some up if you like.
Mike’s wife: He makes a great Mojito.
I had not told them anything about my hunt for an American-made Mojito that compares to the ones made by Lovo’s in Korea. But here was Mike, picking mint and making me one.
Let’s go in for a closer look.
After refreshing ourselves properly, we were back to record a bit more before his children were off to bed. After that, we listened to music. Mike played me all kinds of zydeco and cajun music, showed me books on the subject, and talked about it at great length. It was very educational for me and a great look into one of America’s old but persistent musical subcultures. These styles are in some danger of dying out, but as long as people like Mike draw breath, they will live on. Every music style needs its champions — way to go, Mike.
I was listening back to some of the stuff we recorded, and I feel like some of the spirit behind that music was captured on this project. Exciting.
NEXT: Multi-instrumental mathematicians in Mississippi.