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Boppin' on the bayou

Cajun and Creole traditions come alive in Louisiana's music, which ranges from jazz to zydeco

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New Orleans oozes music. The rhythms of brass bands and jazz jams flow from its very pores, emerging as a joyful cacophony that fills the famed French Quarter every night.

But if one ventures outside that section's narrow, historic streets, there are other intriguing sounds to be heard - although they take some searching to find.

During a six-day trip organized by the education department of Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, a group of 35 travelers did just that. We explored the French Quarter, but also headed to the heart of Cajun country in and around Lafayette.

No matter where one goes in Louisiana, music and dancing are inseparable - and as deeply rooted as the gumbo and touffe recipes that local cooks can recite in their sleep.

Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, notes that New Orleans jazz is dance music instead of concert music - not a sit-down experience.

"[It's] about participating with your body, but also with your soul," he says while playing videos of New Orleans jazz-funeral marches and discussing the archive's lovingly preserved contents.

Barry Ancelet echoes that sentiment. Mr. Ancelet, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, hosts "Rendezvous des Cajuns," a live radio show broadcast in French and English each Saturday from the Liberty Theater. It's known as the Grand Ole Opry of Cajun music.

"People often wonder how Cajun culture has survived so long," Ancelet says. Pointing to the dance floor, where couples shuffle in a Cajun waltz or two-step, he adds with a laugh, "It's because we do that!"


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