Why language and tradition improve the authenticity of music.
Corey Ledet is without doubt one of the main Creole and zydeco musicians of his era, with a Grammy nomination to show it, and an Americana UK favorite. Together with his new album, ‘Médikamen’, he takes a deeper dive into his Louisiana Creole tradition by writing the songs within the Kouri-Vini Creole language which presently has much less the ten,000 audio system. Americana UK caught up with Corey Ledet at dwelling in Louisiana through Zoom to debate ‘Médikamen’ and why he felt the necessity to attempt to protect Kouri-Vini. Whereas the language brings one other dimension to the music, and an added authenticity, the musicianship stays of the best order as Corey Ledet lists the musicians on the album. He additionally explains how his good good friend, producer, musician and label proprietor Louis Michot confirmed him a e book that confirmed that his great-grandfather had performed with New Orleans nice Bunk Johnson, and the way his household’s musical heritage is a part of the rationale he feels the necessity to protect as a lot of Creole tradition as he can. Whereas he could also be a loyal son of Louisiana, he additionally shares his love of the UK, significantly our climate which provided a respite from the extreme warmth of Louisiana this summer time when he performed The North Shropshire Huge Weekend Competition in August. Lastly, he admits to having a really eclectic musical style and sheepishly admits to wanting ahead to listening to some Christmas music within the coming weeks.
You’re actually digging deep into Creole tradition recording a complete album within the Kouri-Vini dialect.
The rationale I wished to try this is for a number of completely different causes. One is that I’ve been attempting to review the language, and my dad speaks it in fact, and it’s a Louisiana Creole dialect we name Kouri-Vini, and it’s a completely different sort of slang, a distinct cadence, from the common Louisiana French, and it’s what they communicate in St. Martin Parish the place my household’s from. So, it’s not a totally international language to my ear, I’ve heard all of it my life and I perceive an excellent little bit of it, however I used to be a part of the era the place the adults didn’t need the children to know all the pieces they had been saying. We misplaced the language a little bit bit there, and the era after me has misplaced it as properly, however I’ve at all times wished to have the ability to communicate it fluently like my household. Life does its factor, and the rationale I wished to do that entire album in that language is as a result of it will assist me be taught. As I’m going ahead from right here I plan to write down all my songs on this language to assist me to be taught, and drive me to be taught. I’ve a cousin, Herbert Wilks, who’s a local speaker and he additionally reads and writes it, so he’s serving to me learn and write it on the identical time that I’m studying it. For me, that actually helps out as a result of not solely can I hear it and communicate it, however I can see it as properly, so I’m getting completely different facets of studying it
The second motive I’m enthusiastic about doing it like it is because most individuals don’t communicate this language as a lot as they did previously, I’m guessing right here however there are most likely lower than 10,000 individuals who communicate that language right this moment, versus when my dad was a little bit boy, and that world has just about fully gone now with all of the older individuals. I believe it is very important protect this language, and that is simply my a part of doing it.
What did using Kouri-Vini imply for the music on ‘Médikamen’ and what does the title imply?
The title interprets to medicine, and the rationale I selected that title is as a result of I imagine music is medicine and might soothe the soul, and that’s why I got here up with the title. So far as writing on this language, it does pose a little bit little bit of a problem as a result of the cadence of Kouri-Vini and English is clearly completely different, so to make the phrases match the beat, go along with the rhythms you realize, you need to determine a means of easy methods to say issues, or a technique to play issues in a different way than when you had been singing in English to make it match.
Does that make the music extra genuine or is it simply completely different?
I’d say extra genuine as a result of at one time most individuals spoke this language. It was like a local tongue to my dad, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, so I believe that makes it a little bit bit extra genuine to have the ability to play Creole music or zydeco and to have the ability to sing within the language that goes together with it.
Who did you file with, and what did they make of the language?
The guitar participant is Julian Primeau, the bass participant is Lee Allen Zeno, the drummer is Je’an-Paul Jolivette, the keyboard participant is Cecil Greene, and we had a few particular company like Grant Dermody on harmonica, we additionally had Kermit Ruffins out of New Orleans on trumpet, and we additionally had Anders Osbourne on a guitar observe for one of many songs. They loved it, and it’s humorous as a result of after we play stay now they’re studying Kouri-Vini and so they don’t even comprehend it. If I’m on stage and I say, “We’re going to play ‘Kofè t’fé ça’ then they need to know which tune that’s. It’s sort of cool and humorous on the identical time as a result of they’re sort of studying it with out even attempting.
What has the viewers response been like?
It’s sort of humorous, we performed a little bit present final night time and we performed a whole lot of songs from ‘Médikamen’ which they haven’t even heard but as a result of they’ve solely been taking part in a few songs on the radio for the final couple of weeks, so we had been taking part in some new music that that they had by no means heard earlier than and so they appeared to love it as a result of they had been all dancing to it. The opposite factor is I’m getting a whole lot of questions, which is sweet, and all people is asking concerning the title and no person can pronounce it so it sparks up a dialog piece, if you realize what I imply.
Do you suppose you’re going to get one other Grammy nomination for this, I believe you would possibly?
That is what I’ve been telling all people, each musician desires at the least one Grammy award, that’s all you want, only one Grammy award. Nonetheless, no person can predict the longer term and also you by no means understand how issues will fall. So, I don’t know but when it doesn’t I’ll say this, this challenge proper right here is my very first challenge the place I will probably be proud sufficient and completely satisfied sufficient even when it doesn’t do something as a result of I’ve put my coronary heart into it. It wasn’t simply to make a CD, it was one thing particular for me to have the ability to write on this language that my household speaks. The extra I be taught the nearer I really feel to my ancestors and the nearer I get to my ancestors. Whether or not it makes it or not, I’m going to be 275% pleased with this challenge and I will probably be nonetheless smiling. It’s extra about artwork somewhat than making a CD to win a Grammy.
Why are your ancestry and roots so necessary to you?
For me, it’s as a result of I’m one of many final individuals in our household, I’m the youngest, and all my ancestors who performed music had been means older than me, like my great-grandfather and my grandfather, and I by no means acquired an opportunity to fulfill my grandfather as a result of he died in 1978 and I used to be born in 1981, and naturally, I by no means met my great-grandfather as a result of he died in 1939, or one thing like that. Listening to all of the tales about our musical background and legacy after I was being introduced up, and our household is actually nonchalant, they’d be like, our cousin performed with Louis Armstrong and it’s no large deal, Louis Armstrong got here by the home and picked him up, no large deal. I used to be like, what do you imply, no large deal, Louis Armstrong coming by our home to choose our cousin as much as go do a present is a giant deal. I believe listening to about these tales rising up, and studying about how my household has performed music because the late 1800s, from all kinds of kinds of music, not simply zydeco. We performed jazz, we performed bebop music, we performed ragtime, we performed rock & roll, funk, soul, gospel, and all throughout the board, we’ve got some relative who has performed one thing with any person. We had a cousin who performed drums with Ike & Tina Turner, we had a cousin who performed drums with Bobby “Blue” Bland, we had a cousin who performed keyboards with B.B. King, my great-grandfather performed with Bunk Johnson, I imply, the least simply retains going.
The very fact I by no means acquired to fulfill these individuals or hear them play or watch them play as a result of we don’t have any video or audio of them performing music in any respect, it’s simply the tales handed all the way down to me. I believe that’s what is actually necessary to me, and that’s the reason music is so sturdy in me. I come from a musical background and I’ve all these musical icons and legends who’ve executed issues that I’ll by no means see till I’m going to heaven, and I’m not able to go there but. Like I mentioned earlier than, that entire world has just about gone now, these previous individuals have gone and it’s virtually like a forgotten historical past. That’s why I believe it will be significant for me to share my tales with all people as a result of these are nice tales.
That Bunk Johnson connection is one thing particular and is one thing to be pleased with.
Positively, and I discovered that out by way of a e book. My good friend Louis Michot discovered a e book that was written about Bunk Johnson, and he confirmed it to me as a result of he recognised a number of the names in there and he requested me about it and it was my great-grandfather and a few of my cousins in there. I learn it, and it mentioned my great-grandfather did reveals with Bunk Johnson, and I used to be considering are they severe?
Are you getting any assist with the funding for the album?
Yeah, I had a little bit assist with the ArtSpark grant, in addition to the Nationwide Efficiency Community which additionally contributed to creating this album a hit, and I simply wish to ship particular due to each of these organisations.
What’s Louisiana like post-pandemic and Hurricane Ida?
Effectively, proper now we’re battling the warmth. The warmth has been record-breaking this summer time to the purpose that it has been cracking the cement in locations, so it has been fairly powerful. Apart from that, so far as the pandemic goes the music scene is opening up however it’s nowhere close to the place it was pre-COVID-19, however it’s getting there at a snail’s tempo, actually actually slowly, We simply need to roll with it for the time being as a result of that’s the finest we will do. We’re nonetheless in there doing our factor, we’re nonetheless taking part in our music and attempting to get on the market and unfold our tradition all around the world.
Any plans to return to the UK?
I used to be simply over there in North Shropshire in August we performed The Huge Weekend Competition, and the climate was so nice, simply to get away from the Louisiana warmth was so implausible I didn’t wish to depart however we needed to get again. Hopefully, I’ll be capable to get again quickly sufficient once more as a result of it’s now a house away from dwelling.
It could be area of interest, however there has at all times been an curiosity in Louisiana music within the UK.
Yeah, positively, that’s why it’s dwelling away from dwelling for me to any extent further.
Have you ever acquired any agency plans to proceed exploring your personal roots?
I actually simply wish to proceed to write down music on this language as a result of it’s a kind of issues, regardless that it isn’t a international language to me, that if I don’t use it I’ll neglect it. I wish to try this, and hopefully, I’ll encourage different Creoles to be taught their language as properly, as a result of a whole lot of Creoles right this moment don’t communicate their native tongue, and I believe that is a vital think about what we do. I actually hope what we do will encourage individuals to leap on board and be taught their native tongue.
A language can die out pretty shortly.
Proper now, it’s just about worn out. So far as Kouri-Vini there are most likely lower than 10,000 individuals who can communicate it, and doubtless even lower than that for Creole French and Louisiana French. As generations preserve popping off it’s going to get increasingly more misplaced.
At AUK, we wish to share music with our readers, so are you able to share which artists, albums or tracks are presently prime three in your private playlist?
Effectively, I’m actually into jazz, I imply, I’ve at all times favored jazz, however now I adore it as a result of I do know my household had a hand moulding that on the flip of the century within the 1800s and 1900s. I take heed to a whole lot of early jazz, ragtime, and stuff like that. I actually like all types of music, I take heed to a little bit little bit of this and a little bit little bit of that. In fact, we’re getting near the tip of the 12 months, so don’t giggle, however I will probably be listening to my Christmas music quickly. Yeah, that’s just about what I’m jamming to lately.
Simply an concept as a result of I do know you’re busy, however have you considered placing for household’s story down in a e book, significantly as you’re the repository of that historical past?
Yeah, a good suggestion and I considered that previously, however I’ve by no means acted on it. I believe after we get to the brand new 12 months I most likely will, regardless that I don’t understand how I’ll do it or what the imaginative and prescient will probably be proper now, however I’ll doc it because it pertains to my household.
Lastly, do you wish to say something to our readers?
I hope all people enjoys the album, and that it brings pleasure to your soul as a result of it’s ‘Médikamen’, medicine for the soul. I like the UK and don’t be stunned if I purchase a spot over there and transfer.
You might at all times open a Creole restaurant.
Yeah, you by no means know, you by no means know.