Heart of Louisiana: Vermilionville Jam

Updated: Sep. 10, 2019 at 10:50 PM CDT
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LAFAYETTE, La. (WVUE) - If you want to hear authentic Cajun music and see how the south Louisiana music is being passed down from one generation to the next, just head on over to the Vermilionville weekly jam sessions in Lafayette, where for some of the older musicians like Ray Landry, playing Cajun music started decades ago.

“My grandfather was an accordion player. When we grew up, we had ball du maisons, we had some porch dances and stuff. And so I was into Cajun music back in the 60s when everybody, all my friends, was into rock and roll,” Landry said.

Today, Landry is playing a homemade string bass. Across from him, Cheryl Cormier plays the accordion.

“I started at the age of 7, as you can tell, I have the road atlas, it’s been that long,” Cormier said.

Cormier, known as the Queen of the Accordion, was one of the first female professional Cajun musicians. Now, she and Landry take part in a Saturday morning jam session that mixes professionals with beginners.

“Coming here I get to reminisce with the musicians, amateurs, and as well as, a few good musicians come out just to have something to do for their relaxation,” Cormier said.

“We really focus a lot on that traditional music sound,” Brady McKeller said. “And it’s a really great place where just anybody is welcome to come in and sit and learn.”

The Cajun jam session takes place in Vermilionville, where the Cajun culture comes alive in a number of historic Arcadian homes, and artisans show off the crafts and skills that were part of Louisiana’s Cajun culture.

“We’ve got about 13 buildings. Eight of them are historic. They’re extant buildings, the oldest of which is the Broussard house, which dates back to about 1760,” McKellar said. “So, a lot of them were discovered in the community and then very, very carefully lifted and moved to set up on this location as Vermilionville was being designed and developed.”

And in the weekly jam sessions, you see that the music and culture have a future, as old traditional songs are passed on to a talented younger generation.

“It’s something that we always worried about, especially us, older musicians,” Landry said. “We always concerned about that, and that’s why we want to make sure that the young people learn it.”

“It’s a great feeling of encouragement for, you know, not to lose what we work so hard to promote,” Cormier said.

While the music finds it’s future, the rest of us can still discover its past, and hear songs that are such an important part of Cajun heritage.

In addition to the Saturday Cajun jam sessions, you can also enjoy live bands and dancing on Sunday afternoons at Vermilionville in Lafayette. For more information, visit their website.

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