For the Cajun family, music is a way of life. The musicians are primarily self-taught, using borrowed or very inexpensive instruments. The bands are made up of family members, girls and boys, women and men. The songs are based on family traditions, and the same songs are sung within the family for generations.
Music has been important to Cajun families since they arrived in Louisiana. After a long day’s work building houses, or plowing the fields, “families would gather... to sing
, the long unaccompanied story songs of their French heritage. They adapted old songs to reflect the Louisiana experience. They sang children’s songs, drinking songs, and lullabies in the appropriate settings and developed play-party ditties for square and round dancing... They filled the loneliest nights in the simplest cabins with wisdom and art.” (Barry Jean Ancelet,
The Makers of Cajun Music Musiciens cadiens et créoles
(Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press,984), pp. 21-22)
No holiday is complete without music. The Cajuns have special songs for Christmas and for Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday). They celebrate their holidays enthusiastically and play their music, or sing, or dance with gusto. Even common events such as a “boucherie” (hog butchering), for example, are celebrated with music.