What does the Jazz guy do when it's vacation time? Why fly down to Lafayette, Louisiana for the 25th annual Festival International de Louisiane - world music from every part of the globe along with cajun and zydeco, local favorite dance musics.
The Fest is set in the middle of downtown Lafayette with six big stages, food booths, kid's areas, art and artifacts. Amazingly enough the whole Fest is free and one is continually reminded to buy little $10 metal pins made to celebrate support for the Fest. Sound familiar? It's a lot like radio, we give it away and then ask you to support it on a voluntary basis.
So who did I hear? My favorite was Red Baraat, a New York City based band with with tuba & drums playing Indian flavored dance music. They had a bit of the wild sass of brass that the Soul Rebels Brass Band (black brass marching band from New Orleans) brought when the two bands joined for one song.
The Master Drummers of Burundi followed the opening ceremonies with a grand entrance carrying their large wooden drums on their heads while drumming on the sides and head. Their set included many leaps into the air, virtuoso drumming and each drummer taking a solo supported by the others.
The Marchforth Marching Band were 24 strong, dressed in sort of punk circus garb and included in their ranks, two men and one woman on stilts dancing in front of the band and all through the audience, ten brass players, eight drummers - a wild crew with demonic beats - sort of a cross between the Bread And Puppet Circus Band, Sun Ra and his Inter-Galaictic Arkestra and a regular High School Marching Band in Halloween costumes. You'd never be bored with Marchforth in the house.
Lafayette, like most of South Louisiana, is friendly with smiles coming at you from all directions. I was given a ride back to my hotel by two total strangers who turned out to be school teachers trying to make art in their spare time. Maria de Barros from Cape Verde fit the relaxed mode of the town as did the cajun dance at Antlers (Club) with Joel Savoy, Jesse Lege & The Cajun Country Revival.
And then there's the food: Crayfish Etouffe, Blackened Tuna Wrap, Shrimp Po Boys and a Cream, Spinach & crayfish mix in a hollowed-out loaf of bread. Yeah, you right!