“L’Heritage Français en Amérique/French Heritage in America," by Susannah Benn
Music is powerful; for centuries, it has united people, expressed emotion, and celebrated culture. Given that, it is not surprising that much of French heritage in America presents itself in folk music. Cajun folk music is of huge cultural importance in modern French Louisiana. French-Canadians, or Acadians, migrated to Louisiana during the 18th century, creating a vibrant, Cajun culture with its own dialect: Cajun French. A blend of Southern Louisiana culture, Cajun folk music encompasses fiddles, accordions, dancing, and improvisational singing. Today, many young Cajuns play the music of their heritage, but keep it modern by adding new elements like rap (Cajun Music…). Cajun music’s ability to evolve has allowed it to thrive.
In the late 19th century, French-Canadian immigrants flooded into New England. Coming mostly from Quebec, they settled mostly in Maine and Vermont. Today, Franco-Americans are still the third largest ethnic group in New England, and like in Louisiana, Franco-Americans use folk music to preserve their culture. Michele Choiniere, a Franco-American musician from Vermont, learned traditional Franco-American folk music from her father. Today, she powerfully expresses her cultural identity through songs that incorporate elements from traditional Quebecois and Franco-American music. Choiniere’s work is especially important because there are few other Franco-American folk musicians of the younger generation. In her song “The Waltz of Time”, Choiniere writes that she tries to “catch time”, “remember...each sound” before the silence makes her “deaf”(Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous...). To Choiniere, these lyrics embody Franco-American cultural preservation. She longs to preserve her Franco-American roots, because, in her own words “when it goes, I will become deaf”(Michele Choiniere).
Although Cajun folk music and Franco-American folk music are different, they share a purpose; to celebrate and preserve French-Canadian heritage. And they have fulfilled their purpose; popular Cajun bands are featured in movies like Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Franco-American heritage stays relevant through celebrations like Maine’s French-American Day. Because music is so powerful, because music is so good at uniting the people, French-Americans have preserved and shared their culture in the US. Because of music, French heritage is relevant and prominent in America.
"Critiques." Michèle Choinière. Michèle Choinière, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.michelechoiniere.com/critiques.htm>.
"Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous Danser?: Franco-American Music from the New England Borderlands." Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.folkways.si.edu/mademoiselle-voulez-vous-danser-franco-american-music-from-the-new-england-borderlands/folk-old-time-world/music/album/smithsonian>.
Savoy, Ann. "Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana." Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana. Folklife in Louisiana, 1990. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creole_art_cajunmusic_aliv.html>.