Terrance Simien spreads zydeco love through Iowa Arts Festival

Terrance Simien will kick off the dance party with his Zydeco experience at the Iowa Arts Festival Main Stage Concert in downtown Iowa on Saturday night, June 8, 2024.  The two-time Grammy Award winner will celebrate 40 years of touring and recording in 2023.

Terrance Simien will kick off the dance party with his Zydeco experience at the Iowa Arts Festival Main Stage Concert in downtown Iowa on Saturday night, June 8, 2024. The two-time Grammy Award winner will celebrate 40 years of touring and recording in 2023.

Presented by Terrance Simien and Zydeco Experience, Louisiana Dance will be at the 2024 Iowa City Arts Festival on Saturday evening, June 8.

Driving miles from his home in Lafayette, Louisiana, to Iowa City is far from new for Simien, who has traveled to 45 countries over more than 40 years.

When Simien lands in Iowa City, fans can expect a high-energy, engaging and emotional performance.

if you go

What: Terrance Simien and Zydeco Experience

Where: Iowa Arts Festival Main Stage, near the intersection of Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue in downtown Iowa City

when: Saturday, June 8, 2024 at 8 pm

Admission fee: free

Artist website: terrarancesimien.com/

What: Iowa Arts Festival

Where: downtown iowa

when: Friday to Sunday, June 7-9, 2024

feature: Art fair with over 100 local, regional and national visual artists; emerging artists zone for ages 16 to 25; musical performances; food vendors; and educational activities for kids

Admission fee: Free; art, food for sale

detail: Summerofthearts.org/sota-events/iowa-arts-festival/

“We want to have fun,” Simien said of the shows. “There’s an energy that makes you feel good and makes you want to dance.”

These performances at least attest to the universal appeal of zydeco, a music that originated in southern Louisiana and spread throughout the United States and around the world in the 1980s, thanks to touring and recording artists like Simien.

The Roots of Zydeco

“I think it’s ingrained,” Simien said of zydeco’s broad appeal. “I’m a Creole. I’m a Louisiana Creole from hundreds of years. My family has lived in this area since 1756. This is a true world music style. Hear it People instinctively find that’s for them. Even if you’re not from (Louisiana), you feel the music and the connection.

The origin of the name “zydeco” is unclear. Some say it’s a quick pronunciation of the first two words of the French phrase. Others, including Simien, have discovered that it derives from the African words “zai’co laga laga,” “zariko,” and “zari,” which all mean “dance.”

But whatever the term’s roots, by the 1920s and 1930s this music – often referred to as Creole music, French music or La La – began to be recorded. Its most famous practitioner is accordionist/singer/songwriter Amede Ardoin, who recorded in the 1930s.

In the 1950s, Clifton Chenier became the architect of modern zydeco, laying the groundwork for Simien and his contemporaries to take the music to the world.

Zydeco is often described as blues music. But this is a misreading of the sound, whose “blues” derives from deeper African roots and then blended into European culture – where the accordion from Germany is one of the main instruments – with a variety of languages ​​and sounds, including Simien’s Musical soup, jazz.

“In my orchestra, I have a couple of horn players, a trumpet and a saxophone player,” he said. “We put some jazz into the music. I’m not the first person to do that. Jazz originated in Louisiana and it permeates all the styles of music around us. Clifton Chenier, Buckwheat (Zydeco); they have it. It’s not that big of a stretch.

musical journey

Since graduating from Lawtell High School in Louisiana in 1981, taking zydeco seriously and starting playing professionally with his band two years later, Simien has played more than 10,000 shows and traveled millions of miles. He and his band have even seen their music featured in multiple television and radio commercials as well as in several movies, including “The Big Easy,” “Exit to Eden” and Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.”

Simien won the first of two Grammy Awards in 2008, recognizing more than just the music on his album Live! Live! Global”, but the role he plays in zydeco’s internationalization process.

“When I started playing in 1981, it was mainly local music,” Simien said. “There were a few guys out: Clifton Chenier, Queen Ida, Buckwheat (Zydeco). In 1981, there were only two teen bands playing it: my band and the Sam Brothers. Everyone else was 20 years older.

“Now the divide has reversed,” he said. “There are younger bands now than our OG – that’s what they call us. It does what we want to do. More young people are making music, filtering the times. That’s why the future of music looks great .That’s what we all want to do, keep the music going.

For example, Chenier, the architect of modern zydeco, brought amplifiers to acoustic music, added yokes and frottoir or friction plate vests to the instrument, and incorporated blues, jazz and early rock and roll into the mix. ‘ into the musical mix. .

During their performances, Simien and the Zydeco Experience incorporated songs by Bob Dylan and The Band, Amy Winehouse, reggae group Peter Tosh and The Meters into an accordion-inspired zydeco style. Many young artists incorporate hip-hop elements into their zydeco stews, which has drawn criticism from some purists who feel they aren’t really playing zydeco.

“People don’t realize what they’re talking about,” Simien said. “If you think the music isn’t being done right, pick up a guitar or an accordion and play it the right way. We’re good. When we talk, Dr. John always says, ‘If it doesn’t change, it’s dying.’ “”

When Simien brings his brand of zydeco to the stage, he’s almost guaranteed to be grinning from ear to ear and having a blast.

“The older I get and the longer I’ve been in the game, the more I want to play and the more I enjoy playing,” he said. “I thought 40 years later I would be exhausted. But it’s the opposite. I’m genuine. When you see the smile on my face, I enjoy it, seeing the people, seeing all the people I’ve known over the years Friend. This is a beautiful thing for me. I don’t laugh enough.

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