Thursday, 24 January 2008

Cotton pickin, Jambalaya and Zydeco!

I began yesterday's posting by admitting that I really only knew a couple of things about Louisiana. After the events of late Tuesday and overnight to yesterday, I know a couple more now!

The consequence of those events was that Mark had a short day yesterday, beginning late at Mamou and then overnighting about 25kms away at Opelousas. Much of the ride between the two settlements took Mark through cultivated agricultural land....

This is an interesting landscape and quite different from the very mixed land use of trees and farming seen yesterday close to the Texan border. Here, the trees probably remain as wind breaks to save the soil from wind erosion at times of the year when the fields have been ploughed or newly planted - as in the Google maps image above which was probably taken in spring when the growing season had just begun. The commencement of the growing season will be much earlier in Louisiana than in the UK. Winters are cool but they are short and crops will commence growth in early February. As mentioned yesterday, it is likely that many of these fields are planted with cotton, sugar cane and soybeans. The image above shows cotton growing in the vicinity of Mamou.

The town of Opelousas ... or 'city' as its website proclaims advertises itself as the third oldest city in Louisiana, Opelousas is home to a diverse culture of Creole and Cajun ancestry. Sounds of Zydeco (Opelousas is the capital of Zydeco), Swamp Pop, and Cajun music fill the air. And, don't forget the food -- jambalaya, gumbo, boiled crawfish and shrimp. Reminds me of an old Carpenters' hit from way back!Just north of Opelousas is a Wal-Mart distribition centre taking advantage of location at the junction of Interstate 49 and Highway 190 - an easy place from where to sent trucks in all directions! South west of the town.. oops city... a reminder that in this part of the world you are never far from oil...

However, I thought I might finish tonight's posting on a cultural 'note'. Zydeco music meant nothing to me when I read the Opelousas website earlier so I have done a bit of research and discovered that "it is is a form of American folk music that evolved during the late 1800s from the vocal music of the black and multiracial French speaking Creoles. Usually fast-tempo, and dominated by the button or piano accordion and a form of a washboard known as frottoir, zydeco music was originally created for house dances so the blacks and free people of color of south Louisiana could gather for socializing. "

And here is a sample... from a Zydeco festival in Opelousas....sung in Creole French

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