Accordion--the dominant, identifying instrument in Cajun and zydeco music. Some practitioners play diatonic accordions that only include whole notes, or steps, within a given scale. "Double-row" or "triple-row" diatonic accordions offer the option of playing in one or two additional keys, respectively. Many, but not all, zydeco accordionists favor chromatic accordions; these are also known as piano accordions.
Aesthetics--the sense of what people consider beautiful or culturally appropriate, varying from folk group to folk group and individual to individual.
Aetiological Tale--also known as "Why Stories" because they explain why things have happened or exist. They harken to a far past and can be serious or fanciful.
Animal Tale--a fantasy story of animals that play stereotypical roles representing certain human traits. In Louisiana, most European-American animal tales take the form of fables, while most African-American and Native-American animal tales feature tricksters such as Brer Rabbit.
Apprentice--a person who studies with a master, learning about the master's skill, traditions, and culture. The folk process of apprenticeship is both in-depth and gradual, involving practice and trial-and-error, involving both verbal and hands-on instruction, as the apprentice slowly and deliberately learns the lore and history of the tradition being studied. The relationship between master and apprentice is close, involving a serious commitment of time and energy for both parties.
Bluegrass--generally regarded as a variant of country music, it is in fact a broad-based hybrid including old-time country and string-band music; British folk songs that survived in Appalachia; improvisation and syncopation, reflecting the influence of blues and jazz; African folk roots, in that the banjo is an African instrument; and a wide variety of commercial, popular music.
Blues--a bedrock genre of traditional American music rooted in African-retentive ante-bellum music, as reflected in the presence of call-and-response, bent or slurred notes, and both lyrical and instrumental improvisation.It is characterized by verses twelve bars in length, with a one-four-five chord progression and often an A-A-B lyrical pattern.
Boucherie--a community gathering in South Louisiana at which a hog is butchered and the meat is divided among all who share in the labor. In addition to the various foodways folk traditions that are practiced at a boucherie, it may also involve such musical traditions as Cajun and zydeco music.
Cajun--a shortened form of "Acadian," which derives from Acadie, a former French colony in present-day Nova Scotia, in eastern Canada. Many Acadians settled in Southwest Louisiana in the late 18th century, maintaining a distinct culture and the use of French. Spaniards, Black Creoles, and Native Americans all interacted with the Cajuns, influencing Cajun music and cuisine. There was also considerable interaction with German and British immigrants during the 19th century.
Cajun Two-Step--a folk dance in which partners dance to fast music with a 4/4 beat. Traditionally, couples move in a counter-clockwise direction around the floor, with the man moving forward. The basic movement is: Step L, together, Step L, touch; Step R, together, Step R, touch, and more elaborate steps may also be executed. The term two-step is also applied to the uptempo songs that accompany these dance steps.
Chitimacha--a small tribe of Native Americans living in St. Mary Parish and renowned for their rivercane basketry.
Country Music--rooted in British ballads and folk songs originally played on the fiddle in Britain adapted to the banjo and guitar, which have African and Spanish origins, respectively. Commercial country has been aggressively marketed since the 1920s, developing new traditions within itself, such as the mid 20th century honky-tonk style. As commercial country grows increasingly mainstream, however, there are periodic back-to-basics movements in which older styles are re-emphasized, including those with strong British roots.
Courir--in French the word courir literally means "to run." In Southwest Louisiana, it is also used as a noun to describe a Mardi Gras run--an event that primarily takes place on Mardi Gras Day, in which a large group of masked and costumed revelers go from house to house to beg for food items for use in a communal gumbo. In addition, courir is sometimes applied to other gatherings on horseback, such as trail rides.
Creole--a word used in different ways in Louisiana. The oldest use of the word refers to people of Old World ancestry who were born in the new world, generally referring to those of French and Spanish ancestry. The term also refers to the members of Louisiana's creoles of color community who speak French or have ancestors who did. Creole also refers to a language and is often be applied to native or homegrown items, such as Creole tomatoes or Creole ponies.
The Louisiana Creole Heritage Center in Natchitoches says that Creoles are generally known as a people of mixed French, African, Spanish, and Native American ancestry, most of whom reside in or have familial ties to Louisiana. Research has shown many other ethnicities have also contributed to this culture including, but not limited to, Chinese, Russian, German, and Italian.
Cultural Landscape--As defined by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a geographic area that includes cultural resources and natural resources associated with an historic event, activity, or person. Sometimes cultural landscapes are the result of one person or group of people acting upon the land. Other times they are the result of an idea one person or a group had and then created at that time. Cultural landscapes can range from thousands of acres of rural lands to a small homestead with a front yard of less than one acre. They include grand estates, farmland, public gardens and parks, college campuses, cemeteries, scenic highways, and even industrial sites.
Culture--the customs, values, worldview,
attitudes, expressive behaviors, and organization of a folk group,
their way of life, which is learned through observation and imitation,
not inherited genetically. Custom--a common practice of a folk group. Décima--a traditional sung poetry form
based in an ancient Spanish literary form that evolved into improvised
ten-line oral poetry among various Spanish-speaking populations
of the Americas. In Louisiana the Isleños,
people originally from the Canary Islands, maintain a décima
tradition. Dobro--a wooden body acoustic guitar with a metal resonator that amplifies its sound without the use of electronics. Deriving from Hawaiian steel guitars, and often used today in old-time country and bluegrass music, the Dobro is fretted with a slide and played perpendicular to body. The word Dobro comes from the name of the first manufacturer of such instruments, the Dopera Brothers,
who began building resonator guitars in the 1920s. Like "Xerox," this brand name emerged as a
general term for such instruments. Documentation--the collection of research in writing, interviewing, audio and video recording, photography, etc. Dynamics--the degree of intensity and loudness of sound. In classical music, Italian words are used to denote special musical dynamics, including very soft (pianissimo), soft (piano), loud (forte), and very loud (fortissimo). Dynamics often vary within a piece of music. Crescendo (<) describes music getting louder. Decrescendo (>) describes music getting softer. While these terms are standard in classical music, and appear as instructions in sheet music, they are not frequently used yet in traditional genres, with the notable exception of jazz works by such composers as Jelly Roll Morton. Easter Rock--a religious tradition practiced by some African-American families in the countryside outside Winnsboro in Franklin Parish. Relatively unknown outside northeast Louisiana, the service has been performed for generations on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, in the Original True Light Church. As participants sing hymns, they take rhythmic steps from side to side around a table decorated with lamps, cake, and punch and placed in the middle of the church central aisle. The steps reverberate through the wooden floor. While outsiders may consider this movement as dance, the community does not. Later in the service, "the rock" is performed at least once more so that other members of the congregation can join the rockers. At the end of the service, cakes are cut and served to the congregation. In the past, the Easter Rock service lasted until midnight, but today it often ends before 11 p.m. because members attend a sunrise church service on Easter morning.
Culture--the customs, values, worldview, attitudes, expressive behaviors, and organization of a folk group, their way of life, which is learned through observation and imitation, not inherited genetically.
Custom--a common practice of a folk group.
Décima--a traditional sung poetry form based in an ancient Spanish literary form that evolved into improvised ten-line oral poetry among various Spanish-speaking populations of the Americas. In Louisiana the Isleños, people originally from the Canary Islands, maintain a décima tradition.
Dobro--a wooden body acoustic guitar with a metal resonator that amplifies its sound without the use of electronics. Deriving from Hawaiian steel guitars, and often used today in old-time country and bluegrass music, the Dobro is fretted with a slide and played perpendicular to body. The word Dobro comes from the name of the first manufacturer of such instruments, the Dopera Brothers, who began building resonator guitars in the 1920s. Like "Xerox," this brand name emerged as a general term for such instruments.
Documentation--the collection of research in writing, interviewing, audio and video recording, photography, etc.
Dynamics--the degree of intensity and loudness of sound. In classical music, Italian words are used to denote special musical dynamics, including very soft (pianissimo), soft (piano), loud (forte), and very loud (fortissimo). Dynamics often vary within a piece of music. Crescendo (<) describes music getting louder. Decrescendo (>) describes music getting softer. While these terms are standard in classical music, and appear as instructions in sheet music, they are not frequently used yet in traditional genres, with the notable exception of jazz works by such composers as Jelly Roll Morton.
Easter Rock--a religious tradition practiced by some African-American families in the countryside outside Winnsboro in Franklin Parish. Relatively unknown outside northeast Louisiana, the service has been performed for generations on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, in the Original True Light Church. As participants sing hymns, they take rhythmic steps from side to side around a table decorated with lamps, cake, and punch and placed in the middle of the church central aisle. The steps reverberate through the wooden floor. While outsiders may consider this movement as dance, the community does not. Later in the service, "the rock" is performed at least once more so that other members of the congregation can join the rockers. At the end of the service, cakes are cut and served to the congregation. In the past, the Easter Rock service lasted until midnight, but today it often ends before 11 p.m. because members attend a sunrise church service on Easter morning.
Elements of Music--the various pieces that combine to make music. Musicians and composers use elements of music in an infinite number of ways to create individual and regional styles that we can recognize as jazz, blues, country music, gospel, etc. Some of the basic elements of music are instrumentation, lyrics/language, tempo, dynamics, melody, and rhythm. The musicians who employ these elements may not necessarily use such terms to identify them.
Elite Culture--the culture and knowledge handed down, learned, and taught officially through formal institutions such as schools, colleges, museums, and conservatories as opposed to folk or popular culture. See Cultural Processes.
Ethnic--used to describe a culture that is different from the "dominant" culture, in terms including language and linguistics, race, religion, national origin, and various combinations of these factors. An ethnic group is a subculture, usually based on shared traditions and characteristics. Ethnicity is different from race per se in that while race denotes biological traits, ethnicity is used to describe cultural traits that may well cross racial lines.
Ethnographic Landscape--As defined by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a landscape containing a variety of natural and cultural resources that associated people define as heritage resources. Examples are contemporary settlements, religious sacred sites, and massive geological structures. Small plant communities, animals, subsistence, and ceremonial grounds are often components.
Ethnography--a study of culture and cultural processes that uses multiple ways to research, observe, and document people, events, or artifacts. See fieldwork.
Fable--a tale, often featuring animal characters, told to illustrate a specific moral point, and often ending with a proverb.
Fais do-do--the Louisiana French expression meaning "go to sleep," from the French words faire and dormir. Parents urged their children to go to sleep so that their parents, especially the mothers, could dance and otherwise enjoy themselves at community gatherings. In the Louisiana French music tradition, fais do-do provides the title and lyrics for lullabies, and it also came to be used as the name for community dances. It is believed that at the old-time house dances and dancehalls, the children slept in a side room while the adults danced on in the main room.
Fieldwork--methods and ways that folklorists and other social scientists use to identify and document traditional culture through directly observing tradition bearers and cultural processes. See ethnography.
Folk Arts--sometimes used like "folklore" or "folklife" to mean the traditional ways of doing things that are passed on informally in groups or to mean the objects and materials made by hand as well as the process of making the objects. A third meaning is informal artwork that makes its way into museums or galleries. For a more thorough definition, go to Key Folklife Definitions
Folk or Traditional Culture--culture and knowledge passed on over time informally (by word of mouth, imitation, and observation). With the advent of radio and the record industry in the 1920s, it is almost impossible for folk cultures to be devoid of any influence/interaction with other cultures, except in rural areas that have no contact with mass media; such communities no longer exist in America, and this there is virtually no music in contemporary America that is created and passed on exclusively within a folk group. It is a testament to its strength that people opt for their folk culture and choose to pass it on when bombarded with other choices from mainstream culture on TV, radio, and the Internet. Also known as traditional culture and used as another term for folklife. See Cultural Processes.
Folk Dance--stylized, rhythmic movement, which is learned within folk groups and transmitted in a traditional manner. Some of these stylized movements may not be considered dance by the cultural insiders and can be considered folk movement by documentors.
Folk Genre--categories or types of traditions; ways of saying or doing that are recognizable within a culture as distinct from other ways.The general categories are oral traditions, music, dance, material culture, beliefs, customs, and body communications. Examples of more specific genres are ballads or tall tales. Visit Suggestions for Folklife Fieldwork and Presentations for a detailed listing of Louisiana-based folklife genres.
Folk Group--a group of people who share some identity and cultural expressions, a community.
Folk or Traditional Music--music that folk groups create and pass on (see Revivalists).
Folklife--used like the word folklore, folklife refers to the living traditions currently practiced and passed down by word of mouth, imitation, or observation over time and space within groups, such as family, ethnic, social class, regional, and others.
Folklore--traditions, which are not necessarily old, that are passed on informally (by word of mouth, observation, and imitation) over time and through space. Folklore is usually anonymous, has motifs or patterns that stay the same, yet also varies as it is passed on. Everyone and every group has folklore.
Folklorist--scholar of folklore who conducts fieldwork and studies the culture of folk groups.
Frame--the verbal markers of an oral narrative, indicating the beginning and the ending.
Frottoir--a rubboard used as a musical instrument in zydeco music. It is fashioned in the form of a vest and worn over the shoulders, in front of the body. Spoons or paint can openers are used to rub against the ridges of the metal board to resonate sound.
Gospel--music that explores themes of Christian belief and biblical history and is popular among black and white Louisianans alike. Their renditions may differ significantly, in keeping with the cultural/stylistic traits of blues and old-time country/bluegrass, respectively.
Houma--the largest tribe of Native Americans living in Louisiana, predominantly in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes.
Indigenous Teachers--people who pass on knowledge and skills outside a school setting and within a community or folk group.
Insider--someone from inside a folk group who learns and passes on the folklife of the group, also called the emic point of view by folklorists and other social scientists.
Instrumentation--the combination of instruments used by musicians to play either a certain style of music, or a particular song within that genre. For example, a common instrumentation in a modern gospel choir is organ, piano, electric bass, drums, and the singers in the choir. An instrument that plays the melody of a song is often referred to as the lead instrument, and several instruments may restate this defining melody in the course of a performance. A musical style may be identified by its instrumentation and the way those instruments are played, although such criteria may appear in more than one genre.
Isleños--descendants of immigrants who came to Louisiana from the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa in 1778, living predominantly in St. Bernard Parish. Isleño means "islander" in Spanish.
Jazz--a diverse, multi-faceted genre rooted in a synthesis of African and European musical concepts that emerged during the late 19th century. The African concepts include polyrhythms, syncopation, and improvisation, while the European contributions include standardized systems of notation, music theory, and European instruments. Much of this exchange of ideas took place in New Orleans. During the past century jazz has continued to evolve, and a wide variety of different jazz styles have come, gone, and then reappeared.
Juré--an African-American/Afro-Caribbean vocal tradition, sung in French Creole, accompanied only by hand clapping and foot stomping for rhythmic reinforcement. Juré has many parallels with African-American music sung in English such as the ring-shout and is one of several root sources for zydeco music. Some juré songs are religious, as are many of the ring-shouts, while other jurés are secular and spontaneously improvised. Juré singing has all but disappeared.
Legend--a tale or story that typically recounts great achievements that often reach heroic proportions. Such tales may be passed down for generations, or describe contemporary events. They may be completely accurate, factually based yet exaggerated, or entirely fictional. These varied approaches all illustrate different aspects of the folkloric process. The heroes or main characters of such tales are also known as legends. In Louisiana folk culture, historic figures such as Louis Armstrong are regarded as legends, with relatively little exaggeration of their life stories and accomplishments. Other figures, such as Jean Lafitte, or Marie Laveau, are also considered legends, but considerable misinformation and exaggeration surrounds them. There are also legendary supernatural figures such as the loup-garou that command belief in some circles.
Loup Garou--supernatural creature in south Louisiana described as either an evil-doer or a vaguely defined, shadowy creature.
Lullabies--unaccompanied songs sung to comfort babies or lull them to sleep. Virtually all cultural groups have lullabies, which are often passed on quite unconsciously from one generation of parents to another. Lullaby lyrics are often nonsensical and repetitive. The melodies are simple and smooth to produce the desired effect of getting a fussy baby to sleep.
Lyrics and Language--song poetry, important musical elements. The rhythm of a melody is often influenced by the rhythm or meter of the lyrics (song poetry). The lyrics of a song often contribute to the expressive qualities of the music and determine how dynamics, tempo, melody, instrumentation, and rhythm will be combined. Lyrics and language are also important repositories of tradition and folklore, and reveal much information about the folk and cultural groups who create and maintain certain styles of music.
Master--an artist or performer of great skill who is qualified to teach an apprentice about a specific skill or set of skills, and the cultural context with in which this skill functions. The master and apprentice form a partnership to share knowledge.
Material Culture--a broad genre of folklore including a vast array of traditional artifacts or objects from fence types to quilts, instruments to foodways.
Melody--a pattern of pitches and rhythm that creates a tune or song. In folk music styles, the melody is often maintained by a lead instrument, or a succession of lead instruments, and also by a lead vocalist, or a succession of lead vocalists. Other musicians and/or singers may provide complementary lines or chords called harmony.
Myth--sacred stories that often explain the origins and worldview of a culture.
Oral History--collecting interviews of ordinary people to get their stories about their participation in events, which fills gaps in written records and tells of those who are often absent from official histories.
Oral Narrative--includes many types of spoken folk genres, from jokes to legends.
Outsider--someone from outside a folk group observing the folklife of the group, also called the etic point of view by folklorists and other social scientists.
Personal Experience Narrative--an autobiographical account of memorable events that sometimes reflects the worldview of an individual, community, or folk group.
Positioning--factors involved in how a researcher responds to the data collected, including the researcher's age, gender, class, nationality, and race in addition to the researcher's life experiences that influence interpretation of the data and the researcher's choice of language to explain it.
Proverb--a brief traditional oral expression that generally remains in fixed form ("A rolling stone gathers no moss," "Don't cry over spilt milk.") and is used by the teller to name a situation, teach a lesson, or illustrate a point.
Revivalists--musicians, storytellers, and other artists who perform the folk music, tales, crafts, and folk arts of other people and times, often learned from books, recordings, or workshops. Some revivalists also perform folk genres from their own traditions.
Rhythm--a metered pattern of notes that sets the pace for a piece of music. In folk music styles, the presence of a particular rhythm may help to identify a specific musical genre. The meter of a song's text, or lyrics, may determine the rhythm that is used, and/or subtle nuances within a song's rhythmic structure. The rhythms in music played primarily for dancing are closely connected with the particular dance steps involved. In many genres, especially those such as blues and jazz that favor improvisation, vocalists and instrumentalists alike may perform "over the beat." This means that they use the song's established rhythm as a reference point so that they can toy with the timing for dramatic effect.
Rhythm and Blues (R&B)--a hybrid of traditional African-American folk roots and blues with various mainstream sources. R&B employs a wider variety of song structures and chord progressions than traditional blues; and, like jazz, it often features complex arrangements that may be unique to one particular song. Also, many R&B songs differ from traditional music in that they are created by professional songwriters with the calculated goals of scoring a hit and making money.
Rockabilly--a merger of British-American country music with African-American blues and R&B, influenced by commercial pop songwriters of the early 1950s. Although rockabilly is greatly influenced by African-American music, the term generally specifies white, British-American musicians.
Second-Line--the folk dance practiced by the throngs who follow parading jazz bands in New Orleans. In addition, the term describes a number of the syncopated rhythms prevalent in New Orleans and a gathering where bands play and people dance.
Shape-Note Singing--an a capella style of Protestant religious singing. Instead of reading music by the placement of the notes on the staff, shape-note singers sound out the tune by reading the shapes of the notes. There are two systems of shaped notation. The older Sacred Harp system uses only four syllables (fa, sol, la, and mi) in the musical scale, with each of these syllables having its own shape. The newer seven-note system (using do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti) is more commonly used in North Louisiana today. It is also referred to as Sacred Harp singing, a reference to a book of hymns with shape-note notation.
Signifying--elaborate word games played out in African American vernacular tradition, also called "playing the dozens," saying one thing to mean another in a bragging fashion.
Stereotype--an exaggerated belief that can be positive or negative but generalizes without allowing for differences.
String Bands--a type of country-music ensemble of fiddle, five-string banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and upright bass dominant during the 1920s and 1930s, and an important precursor to bluegrass. Today it is played primarily in circles where old-time country music remains popular, such as family picnics, square dances, fiddle conventions, and jam sessions. In Louisiana, the old-time string band sound is found primarily in North Louisiana and the Florida Parishes.
Swamp Pop--a style of music created by Cajun and Creole musicians in the late 1950's. This hybrid of pop, rock, and R&B is virtually identical to the pop, rock, and R&B of this area that was popular in other parts of the country. Accordions are rare in swamp pop, which favors typical R&B instrumentation, and French lyrics are rare, as well. Instead, swamp pop's regional identity comes from a soulful, emotional vocal style that has strong connections with zydeco and Cajun music.
Tale Type--stories that share the same basic plot. Antti Aarne's and Stith Thompson's The Types of the Folktale, 2nd ed., 1995, Indiana University Press indexes hundreds of tale types (see Unit V Resources and the Swapping Stories Index of Motifs Excerpt).
Tall Tale--a fictional story, presented as a true account and usually told in the first person, that begins by describing a common situation, but gradually adds more and more unusual features until it pushes up to and beyond the limits of belief.
Tempo--the speed of the beat or the rhythm of a piece of music. There are infinite choices for tempo, with many subtle variations. In classical music, Italian words are used to denote various tempi, including slow (adagio), fast (allegro), moderate (moderato), very fast (presto). While these terms are standard in classical music, and appear as instructions in sheet music, they are not frequently used yet in traditional genres, with the notable exception of jazz works by such composers as Jelly Roll Morton. Tempo guides how fast the piece of music will be played and is usually constant throughout a selection, although deliberate tempo changes may be employed for dramatic effect.
Timbre--the term used to denote the tone color of a specified instrument or piece of music, for example, "rough" or "bell-like." The concept of timbre is useful when trying to describe music in words, for instance, a fiddle has a different timbre than a trumpet. This term is rarely used in traditional music circles, although the concept is important.
'Tit-fer--the Louisiana French name for a triangle, a simple instrument often used to provide rhythm in a Cajun band. ‘tit derives from the French word "petit" meaning little; fer means iron in French. A traditional ‘tit-fer is made from a tine of an old-fashioned hay rake, fabricated and tempered by a blacksmith to produce its musical quality. It is also seen as t-fer, ti-fer, or tee fer with or without capitals or apostrophes.
Toast--an African-American memorized oral narrative tradition that may be for entertainment but often expresses protest and describes historic events. It rhymes, is open to improvisation, and is also used as a form of competition where the person with the quickest verbal skills and ability to improvise is the winner. A special use of a common term usually meaning to drink in tribute.
Tone Color--the term(s) used to describe the expressive qualities of a piece of music and/or how a piece of music or an instrument sounds. Adjectives are often used to describe tone color, for example, "cool" or "warm," helping listeners to express the impact of music on their senses, intellect, and emotions. This term is rarely used in traditional music circles, although the concept is important.
Tradition--a cultural expression that a folk group continues to pass on or practice. Traditions may be old or newly emerging.
Trickster--a human or animal character of a folktale who constantly tries to outsmart or outwit other characters but does not always succeed and is sometimes the loser, not the winner. Examples include Brer Rabbit, known as Compére Lapin in Cajun and Creole tales.
Why Stories--another term for aetiological tales, which explain why things have happened or exist. They harken to a far past and can be serious or fanciful.
Zydeco (pronounced ZY-duh-coe)–-the exuberant dance music of southwest Louisiana's black Creoles. Stylistically, it is a rich hybrid, with a core of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and folk roots, blues, and Cajun music (zydeco's white counterpart), along with a wealth of other elements. These vary widely from band to band and may include rock, country, R&B, reggae, rap, and hip-hop. Traditionally, zydeco is sung in French, and lyrics are often improvised. It is absolutely not intended for passive listening. Zydeco's dominant instrument is the accordion, while its signature percussive instrument is the frottoir or rubboard.