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Reliving My Accordion Past: Falling in Love All Over Again

It can be unsettling, to be interviewed and then to read or hear your own words.  The experience is oddly intimate, though still at a remove.  But sometimes an interview can restore your own past to you.  That's what has happened to me.

In the last few months, I have been interviewed twice about my passion for Cajun-Creole music and how it all began.  So many of the most pivotal events happened years ago.  The first trip to New Orleans that started it all?  More than two decades have passed since then.  Danny Poullard, my friend and mentor, died in 2001.   Accordion Dreams has been out for three years.  So even my story of the journey seemed firmly anchored in the past.

But then these journalists showed up.  They had this knack for asking just the right questions, and for separating the wheat from the chaff.  And it came alive for me again.

First there was Françoise Jallot, who writes for a French magazine called Accordéon et Accordéonistes.  She wrote to me  four months ago about doing an e-mail interview.  The details seemed a little hazy, but I wrote out the answers, in English, to her thoughtful questions.  I didn't hear anything more, and I thought that was the end of it.

Then, last month: Voilà! There was the magazine, with me "speaking" in French.  Followed by Françoise herself, here in San Francisco, a month later.  She used to live here, it turns out, and is visiting friends.   We invited her to one of our  jam sessions.  She is a delightful person. . . even if she was too shy to play the accordion herself!  We're hoping to see her again before she goes back to Paris.

Then there were these two journalists out of North Carolina,  Barry Yeoman and Richard Ziglar. They were doing a radio documentary about the Creole community in Northern California. They had already interviewed plenty of people.  But they had gotten my name from an ethnomusicologist friend,  Mark DeWitt, who had served as one of their consultants.

So they came out to our house, along with a photographer named John Noltner.  They interviewed Steve and me, recorded us talking and playing,  took photos.  They came back for a jam session and took more  photos.  We met up at a few music events.   Really nice guys.  I was happy to be one of their informants,  but I figured the interviews would just end up as part of their research. On the cutting room floor, as they say.

Now the documentary has just been released.  It's called Zydeco Nation.  It's wonderful.  I learn something new about my own music community every time I go back to the multimedia website. It's about music, but it is so much more than that.  It's also about cultural survival and racism. Richard and Barry don't shy away from the tough questions and they capture the complexity of this vital community.  

And yes, I am quoted, briefly, in the radio broadcast.  There is also a longer segment on the website, with parts of the interviews they did with us.  Also a very nice photo. 

I hear myself talk about the swamp tour that changed my life.  Who is that person? I draw closer to myself and to a past that sometimes seems to be receding. 

So now I have made three new friends.  Françoise, Barry, and Richard.

And I have fallen in love with my music, and my community,  all over again.

I am grateful to them.