A partnership between the West Baton Rouge Museum and the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Cajun French Music Association means every third Sunday of the month is an opportunity to enjoy great music and maybe even a two-step at the museum.
Museum Executive Director Angelique Bergeron said the first Cajun Jam was in May, instigated by a request from Angeline Brown, a member of the Cajun French Music Association, after the organization lost its last venue, a restaurant in Brusly.
“It changed hands so they were no longer going to have a venue to play, so they came to us to be willing to host their jams here,” Bergeron said.
“They called out of the blue but I jumped on the opportunity immediately,” she continued.
With a deep-seated interest in the French language—her Ph.D. dissertation was on Creole French—Bergeron saw it as an opportunity to connect multiple generations through the music.
“Many younger people learn to speak French because they want to sing the music so it’s the music that is keeping the language alive,” she said. “A lot of the young artists had to learn French so they could sing the old songs.”
About 20 musicians have shown up for the jams each time and “anyone is welcome to come out and play with them,” Bergeron said.
In September 2017 thanks to the generosity of Virginia Butitta, the Cajun French Music Association began to hold a Cajun Music Jam at Caffe' Maison in Brusly.
The jams were a great success with local Cajun musicians and Cajun music fans,” said Ken Bueche, president of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Association.
“In April Virginia sold her business and we began looking for a new home,” he continued. “The West Baton Rouge Museum agreed to host our sessions and the museum has proven to be a great location for the jams.
“We usually have 18 to 20 musicians and 50 or more museum patrons attend our jams,” Bueche said. “The first jam was hosted by Ray Landry and had featured musicians Gina Forsyth and Cajun Music Hall of Famer Sheryl Cormier.”
“The second jam was hosted by local Cajun band leader Jesse Brown and his family and the July jam session featured Cajun Music Hall of Fame member Lee Benoit and his wife Valarie,” he said.
“Our musicians may be beginners, amateurs or members of Cajun Bands,” Bueche said.
He said traditional Cajun music is played with instruments including the diatonic accordion, guitar, bass, t-fer (triangle) and the fiddle.
The Cajun French Music Association is a non-profit 501c-3 corporation and was founded in 1984 in Eunice, Louisiana with the mission of promoting and preserving, not only Cajun music, but also various aspects of the Acadian Heritage.
The CFMA has 9 chapters located in South Louisiana and Southeast Texas. The Baton Rouge Chapter was established in 1992 and boasts around 100 members from the Greater Baton Rouge area.
The Baton Rouge CFMA has sponsored regular Cajun dances in the Baton Rouge area since its inception. Currently the dances are held monthly at the UCT Hall, 11175 Florida Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
The dances begin at 8 p.m. Dance lessons are included with the price of admission and begin around 7:15 p.m., prior to the dance. There is an admission fee.
For more information on the Baton Rouge Cajun French Music Association, visit www.batonrougecajundance.com and the web and follow the group on Facebook at “Cajun French Music Association Baton Rouge.”