Music & Dance
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Located on Louisiana's Gulf Coast, Mamou has been called a prairie town where Acadian French is spoken on the street, the national holiday is Mardi Gras, and a poor family is one without a fiddler or accordion player. It is also now known as the home of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, one of the driving forces in the continuation of Cajun music. Of their music, Barry Ancelet, professor of folklore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, raves, "It's the Sgt. Pepper's of Cajun music. It's so strong in so many areas: performance/musicianship, the poetry, the conception, the whole album working together as a sort of a thematic unit…They actually do what those old masters were doing. They improvise and create within the tradition, finding poetry in historical manuscripts and in the language of real life, and they manage to do this in a way that both innovates and preserves at the same time.”
A native of Mamou and cousin to well-known accordion player Marc Savoy, Mamou Playboy's founding member Steve Riley became a protégé of Cajun great and National Heritage Awardee Dewey Balfa when he was only 15, learning to play the Balfa Brothers' and Marc Savoy's driving, intricate style." A self-acknowledged ham, he began performing at family gatherings when he was a child, encouraged by his mother's father, Burke Guillory, who first taught him to sing Cajun songs and play the triangle. His other grandparents also helped him learn music. "I'd go to my grandparents on my father's side, they would have house parties where Marc Savoy and Dennis McGee and Sady [Courville] and all those musicians from Eunice would get together and play...and I'd play triangle with them."
Fellow founding member David Greely also apprenticed with Dewey Balfa, where he received firsthand wisdom in Cajun music that has now earned him acclaim as an eloquent Cajun French songwriter, fiddler, singer and researcher of nearly forgotten tunes and ballads.
Sam Broussard grew up a city Cajun in South Louisiana, only to pick up his guitar and leave at age 19 to tour, write, arrange and record with artists such as Michael Martin Murphey, Jimmy Buffett, and European rock star Stephan Eicher. He returned to his birthplace to be with family and has been devoted to playing Cajun music ever since.
Brazos Huval, of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, is the bassist and the youngest and newest Mamou Playboy. The eleventh in a family of fourteen children, he came up as a fiddler and saxophonist in the Huval Family Band, as well as bassist for Zydeco artist Horace Trahan.
Kevin Dugas began drumming at the age of sixteen with the famed Cajun accordionist and vocalist Belton Richard. He refined his craft during five years with Walter Mouton and the Scott Playboys, playing every Saturday night at La Poussière in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
In the down home dance hall the two-step and the waltz rule the night. On festival and concert stages the Mamou Playboys delve into the diverse facets of Cajun melody and lyric: ancient ballads, twin fiddle tunes, zydeco, swamp-pop, rich harmonies, venerable old songs, and brand new songs make for a seamless blend of preservation, discovery and invention.
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