Music

Musical ambassadors of Creole culture

Cedric Watson is on a mission to bring you joyful listening and dancing

By Dena Miller
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 11/12/19

"Nothing in this world such a pure delight, as a fais do-do on a Saturday night," sang the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in their 1975 anthem, "Bayou Jubilee." Lucky for you, there's a Louisiana fais do-do in store for you Saturday (Nov. 16) when Roots and Wires Presents Cedric Watson with Bijou Creole at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership.

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Music

Musical ambassadors of Creole culture

Cedric Watson is on a mission to bring you joyful listening and dancing

Posted

"Nothing in this world such a pure delight, as a fais do-do on a Saturday night," sang the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in their 1975 anthem, "Bayou Jubilee." Lucky for you, there's a Louisiana fais do-do in store for you Saturday (Nov. 16) when Roots and Wires Presents Cedric Watson with Bijou Creole at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership. So, prepare yourself to be purely delighted.

Along with his band, Watson will transport you to the heart of Lafayette, whose roots in the historical and cultural perspectives of Louisiana represent a lush melding of customs, conventions and ethnology. What holds this amalgamate together is a heaping serving of passion by the musicians for their craft.

"My band and I see ourselves as the ambassadors of Creole culture," he said with an enthusiasm so infectious that there is no doubt Saturday's performance will be epic. "We represent the togetherness that's come out of the history of the deep South, with the energy of our music somewhere in the realm between the spiritual and the physical. You may not have a name for it, or recognize it, but you're gonna feel it."

The singer-songwriter, fiddler and accordionist has been recognized internationally for his soul-deep embrace of the French, Spanish, African, Caribbean and Native American roots that came together in not just his own ancestry but that of his band members and the music and culture they represent.

Not just a band

Noting that Bijou Creole has been through several transformations over the last decade, those who will join him on the Mothership stage are "not just my band; they're my soldiers," Watson said, laughing. "Just the best at what they do, and who they are."

"Desiree Champagne (rub-board, backup vocals) is like my soul sister and a true partner whose diversity brings so much to the band," he said. "Chris Stafford (guitar, fiddle) has been playing since he was 10 and is one of the best out there. I've got Serge 'Philippe' Billeaudeaux on bass, whose background in funk and rock brings a whole new dimension to our music, plus his great business mind helps co-manage everything. And our newest member, Adam Cormier, is on drums and is as enthusiastic about getting people excited with this music as I am."

Taos' own Trance Conductor and Krewe (Lucas Moccasin Gladue and Shannon Freeman) will open the evening, their sound and story a philosophically perfect fit with Watson's. Interviewed recently by Miles Bonny on his Record Ceremony podcast, the trio talked about their "cultural appropriation, meaning making it your own," and honoring their world view, which jives with how Watson approaches his own.

"We don't want to forget that one of the biggest contributions to our culture, music and heritage was made by the Native Americans," Watson noted. "I find that the old zydeco rhythms sound like a mix of African and Native American ceremonial rhythms. This mélange very possibly came about through the intermingling of the Native American population and the Maroons [escaped African slaves and free people of color].

"It's there, in the rhythms and chants, that I find the 'in-between'. It's not just recognizing my ancestry; it's like I am my ancestors, and I can feel them inside me, even though I may not know who they are."

Cowboys and Creole culture

Watson grew up in San Felipe, Texas, a small town but one with which his family shares a giant history. Having had a Mexican relative who fought on the side of the United States in the Mexican American war, the family was granted a large swath of land, which remains in their possession today.

"We are cowboys and in the Texas where I grew up, being a cowboy was the Creole culture. As a kid I listened to Southern and classic rock, but there was one DJ who played French zydeco on the weekends so when we were outside barbecuing that's who we listened to and what I came to love. My grandmother bought me a guitar when I was 16 and said if I learned it, she'd get me a fiddle, too."

By 19, Watson was so accomplished that he performed at a zydeco jam hosted by Houston's The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club. And at 21, he made his move to south Louisiana.

The four-time Grammy-nominated musician has collaborated on multiple albums with the Pine Leaf Boys, Corey Ledet, Les Amis Creole with Ed Poullard and J.B. Adams, in addition to recording with his own group, and has traveled extensively to promote the genre, including visits to the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia. He's been featured on London's "Live on the BBC" and, earlier this year, was invited to perform on the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Above all, Watson is regarded for the playful and exuberant energy he brings to the stage, seamlessly moving from instrument to instrument, style to style, language to language. Audiences find his vivacity and spirit addictive.

John Henderson of Roots and Wires Presents completely agrees. "I don't think I bring any genre of artists that are more proud to represent a culture than those from Southwest Louisiana. It's joyful listening and dancing music."

Henderson is well-known in the Taos community, which he adopted in 1994. Aside from his educational and civic involvements, he's also widely hailed for the distinctive programming at KNCE-FM 93.5 and the many Arroyo Seco Live performances the nonprofit arranges - "Much like cultural exchanges," he said.

So when he, with Roots and Wires Presents, brings an act to the Mothership, you know it's going to be a show you shouldn't miss. We're sure you won't.

Tickets for the all-ages 7 p.m. show are $15 at the door. The Mothership, located at 20 ABC Mesa Road off U. S. 64 west, El Prado, will open at 6 p.m.

For more information, call (575) 758-1900, ext. 1, or visit taosmesabrewing.com. To learn more about the artist, visit cedricwatson.com.

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