Saturday, September 24, 2011

Louisiana Saturday Night - The Fais Do Do

Driving down the paved road beveled with centuries old oak trees on both sides, you accelerate through the green humid tropical evening with the sound of robust crickets serenading your trip.  Opelouses, meaning "Flat Prairie", opens up the possibilities for a night of festival and southern Louisiana music.   Bojangles, Purple Peacock, Napolean's or Cowboy's turn your head and you wonder where's the best place to stop.

A neon sign catch you out of the corner of your eye.  Slowing to a crawfish crawl and lights steaming and shining down a dimly light gravel road, you pull in to perhaps one of the oldest swamp pop nightspots in Southern Louisiana in the outskirts of Opelousas.

You feel out of place.

The trip-el-lette, trip-el-lette rhythm of the fiddle start to make you feel more welcome. Slow, usually melancholic swamp pop ballads, however with their heavy, triplety feel, undulating bass lines, climactic turnarounds and dramatic melodies born generations ago of widespread poverty, hard-living and the loneliness of a largely rural existence entice you into wanting to hear more.  Then the lively fiddle grabs your attention as the beat turns around and flies away on something that sounds like square dance music.  Yep.  You're a Yankee.  A Northerner thinking you were you were cultured as a city slicker. 

"Where's y'all's hat, son?" an  robust Acadian man slaps you on the back and asks you in fun...

You sheepishly reply,  "I.....I  ....I  ...must have left my car"

He cuts you off and replies "I seh y'all not fro aroun' here. S'ats alright.  We make sure y'all hah a gooh time anyway"..  (my apologies Andi if you are reading this and hope it comes through ok)

You keep to yourself while swirling couples dance with heart to the hoppity uppidity beat of a..did you really see that... Yep.  A washboard!  Welcome to the Bayou Yankee... it's time you made it down home!

Wandering up to grab a beverage you look around and someone next to you in conversation mentions something about a fay to doe to toe.  They are uniquely semi-bilingual and you realize you are in for an amazing Louisiana Saturday Night.

Let the Fais-do-do begin!

A Fais do-do is Cajun dance party. The "do-do" (pronounced doe-doe) comes from the verb that transitioned from "dormir" which means "to Sleep". Fais translated into english means "to make". The Fais do-do (to make sleep) is a Cajun tradition all around Louisiana....and one that is happening tonight here in New Iberia at the Louisiana Sugar Cane Fest!

Here's Stuart Landry, an Acadian countryman's, explanation - Years ago, when south Louisiana communities were isolated and traveling was difficult, Saturday night dances were held in homes or dancehalls. Whole families attended these gregarious gatherings, and once the initial visiting was over, the infants and young children were put to sleep (fais dormir) on pallets wherever there was room around the perimeter of the dance floor, in a corner of the room, or sometimes on shelves under the bar. The parents were then free to dance the night away.  

A fais do-do (FAY-DOE-DOE) is like a Cajun hoedown, a country dance. The music, sometimes referred to by the locals as "chanky-chank," was provided by an accordion, a fiddle, and a "ting-a-ling," or triangle. The favored dance of the Cajuns is called a two-step and is akin to a waltz, but livened up with little jig steps.

Sometimes they danced until dawn. And sometimes, they danced outside under the trees because the houses were rather small. La poussière (pronounced lah poo-see-air)-- which means dust--- would fly under their feet! Eula Mae tells us that, "Babies were often put to sleep in another room with a grandmother or other older family member to keep them quiet while the band played on. But sometimes, a mother would hold her baby in her lap until she got up to dance, handing her child to someone else."

My friend C. Gatreaux explains: "Yes! We had fais do do's all the time...even in our second home in Florida.  Good food, great friends...dancin' all night long to great music; fallin' asleep to the laughter of the adults' up the in "attic" on the old feather bed.  Some of my favorite childhod memories!"

Oh, yes, a fais do-do was a good time - a good time for everyone to catch up on the news, see cousins and other relatives, and, of course, eat! More often than not, everyone brought a dish. One family might bring a gumbo or stew; another supplied seafood to boil or fish to fry, and there were always sweet treats, like cakes, cookies, or some kind of dessert made with local fruits.

So let's put on our dancing shoes and head on out ---  we are guaranteed an amazing La Louisiane Samedi Soir (Louisiana Saturday Night).

Music video by Mary Chapin Carpenter performing Down At The Twist And Shout. (C) 1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT


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