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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

'Swamp in the City' brings Cajun culture to Brooklyn

Swamp in the City

Cajun music has long been popular in New York City, what with Let‘s Zydeco dance concert promotion now celebrating its 25th year. But next weekend brings the first Swamp in the City--A Cajun Music & Dance Festival, to be held over three days (May 18-20) and featuring more than a dozen bands at four Brooklyn locations: the Jalopy Theatre, Threes Brewing, Parklife and Littlefield--all within walking distance.

“We’re hosting Swamp in the City to celebrate the traditional music, culture and cuisine of Southwest Louisiana,” says the event’s co-producer Krissie Nagy. “Our festival promotes the Acadian area’s culture by featuring Cajun and Zydeco dancehall bands, offering group classes in music and dance, hosting backyard Cajun music jams and featuring down home southern Cajun/Creole cuisine--boudin, po’ boys and cracklins!”

The music lineup showcases some of the top Cajun musicians and bands, including Joel Savoy, Wilson Savoy, The Pine Leaf Boys, Jesse Lege, Courtney Granger, The Empty Bottle Ramblers, 99 Playboys, C’est Bon Cajun Dance Band, Bayou Brew and Magnolia.

Friday night’s schedule at Jalopy includes a Cajun dance lesson followed by The Empty Bottle Ramblers, Jesse Lege & Joel Savoy, and The Pine Leaf Boys. On Saturday afternoon , 99 Playboys and Magnolia are at Threes Brewing, with workshops conducted by Wilson Savoy (Cajun accordion), his brother Joel Savoy (Cajun fiddle), Courtney Granger (Cajun song) and Paul “Bird” Edwards (rhythm instruments including rubboard, triangles and shakers).

Also Saturday afternoon, Wilson Savoy and Jesse Lege are hosting a backyard Cajun jam at Parklife, while at Littlefield an early evening Cajun dance lesson is followed by C’est Bon Cajun Dance Band, a honky-tonk set from Courtney Granger & Friends, Jesse Lege & Joel Ssavoy, and the Pine Leaf Boys.

Sunday it’s back to Jalopy for an afternoon backyard jam hosted by Jesse Lege; workshops with Courtney Granger (Cajun fiddle) and Joe Vidrine (Cajun guitar), and performances by C’est Bon Cajun Dance Band, Empty Bottle Ramblers, Joel & Wilson Savoy & Friends and Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew, along with a Cajun dance lesson and Louisiana Fiddle Showcase featuring Courtney Granger, Darren Wallace, Joel Savoy and Wilson Savoy.

Complete information, including ticket prices, is available at the festival website.

“By being located in the heart of the largest city in the country, our festival is uniquely poised to introduce Cajun culture to people for whom the word ‘Louisiana’ equates with ‘New Orleans,’“ says Nagy. “We are targeting adventuresome New Yorkers who are looking for something new and interesting to do with their weekends, along with many of the NYC dance communities who do not yet have Cajun music on their radar.”

Nagy notes that a previous festival, Bayou in Brooklyn, had run for several years in May.

“The woman who ran it ‘retired’ it, so I and a friend decided to take over the whole ‘Cajun festival in Brooklyn in May’ concept, and our festival is being supported by the loyal crowd of Cajun music fans from all over the Northeast who have been coming to the Bayou ‘n Brooklyn each May for the last half-decade. It begins with the strong foundation laid by--and with the blessing of--Bayou ‘n Brooklyn’s recently retired organizer.”

Nagy adds that “in order to make the festival experience authentic, we invited as many high caliber musicians from Louisiana as possible. Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy have a beautiful, tight sound and have recreated some of the best traditional Cajun music around, while Wilson Savoy, Courtney Granger and Jon Bertrand collectively make up three-fifths of the Grammy-nominated, high-energy Pine Leaf Boys, a knock-your-socks-off rockin’ Cajun band. Then there’s Paul Edwards (a.k.a. Bird), an astonishing rhythm player who will be featured in several bands throughout the weekend. Also, don't miss his popular ‘Rhythm with Bird’ workshop offered on Saturday afternoon at Threes Brewing.”

Additionally, concludes Nagy, ”We’ll also have some of the best Cajun bands from the Northeast in our lineup, including the all-female C’est Bon Cajun Dance Band and the toe-tapping Empty Bottle Ramblers.”



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