live at Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Pavilion on September 24, 2014. A show by Southwest Roots Music and KSFR. | gig magazine issue #7 |
interview & photographs by Justin Thor Simenson
This article was originally published in October 2014.
Santa Fe, New Mexico in September means that the air is filled with the smell of roasting green chile and the streets are being prepared for the Fiestas. This September there was something else, the sound of zydeco music echoed off of the adobe buildings near the rail yards. More than 400 people packed into the Farmer’s Market Pavilion to see Buckwheat Zydeco. KSFR and Southwest Roots Music billed the show as a fundraiser for KSFR and I am sure some people came for that reason, but the show also worked because of a much deeper reason.
“There is a connection [between New Mexico & zydeco music]. We both have culture, we have roots.” Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural Jr. explains after I ask him about New Mexico and zydeco music. He continued “That is what makes us so close, that is where the communication comes from.” I add “they are old cultures too.” He says “Yeah man, they go way back. [We have to] put it in perspective and identify. If you don’t have identity, then what do you have? In other words; wonder where you’re going, but don’t forget where you come from.”
“wonder where you’re going,
but don’t forget where you come from.”
After playing music for over 30 years, Buckwheat Zydeco seems to transcend generations. This was even more the case when Buckwheat’s son opened the show on the organ and introduced his father. He then played washboard for the remainder of the show. I asked Buckwheat “Do you feel traditional zydeco music is still relevant to the younger generation?” He was quickly replied. “I do, that is my reason for doing zydeco music. In 1979 I decided that if I am going to play zydeco, I am going to play it 50% for the older generation and 50% for the younger generation. That was the only way I was going to play this music. I was like a stubborn cat, I refused to play zydeco, but if I was going to play zydeco it would be from my generation to the new generation and paying respect to the older generation, like my father the ‘King of Zydeco’ Clifton Chenier and people that played before me.” He pauses then says “If you don’t pass it on, you lose your culture and then it is gone. Forgot. Dead. And you don’t want that to happen.”
“Have you had to adapt to the younger generation?” I ask. “Yes of course I mix it up.” He answers. This ignites a spark in his eyes and he continues. “I mean when have you heard of an accordion player playing some ‘Hey Joe’ by Jimi Hendrix? The younger generation is all into that. But you don’t make it different.” I nod. “Do you think that some people feel like they miss out on a ‘zydeco show’ when you play other stuff?” “I do [play different genres], but I am playing a cultural instrument, the accordion. I can take any song and put it in the Buckwheat Zydeco repertoire, you know. I can put it in zydeco music. Like tonight we played ‘Hey Good Lookin’ that is country western and it works. I’m not doing things like that just because, I do them because I love what I’m doing. I love to look out into the crowd and see the smiles on their faces. That is rewarding to me, it is not just a dollar bill.”
The deep rooted culture of New Mexico, especially northern New Mexico, is well known but tying it to zydeco music was a first for me. Now that I see that connection I have a whole new view of New Mexico and zydeco music. Buckwheat also described this connection as a channel for communication. This is a great way to describe it and it really hit close to home for me. Keeping our cultures alive and passing them on needs to happen. Like Buckwheat said “if you don’t have identity, then what do you have?”