The Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern State University is sponsoring the 2021 NSU Folklife Concert Series, a series of six Saturday concerts in July and August. The concerts will highlight different folk musical traditions with a 45-minute music set followed by interviews with the musicians and an audience Q&A. Each performance will take place at 2 p.m. at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum at 800 Front Street in downtown Natchitoches. The concert series is free and open to the general public.
The series will kick off on July 3 with Cajun music by Amanda Shaw. Zydeco artist Corey Ledet will perform on July 17. Singer-songwriter ensemble Smithfield Fair will perform on July 24. The Yvette Landry Trio will perform Cajun and classic country on July 31. San Antonio, Texas rock artist Nina Diaz will perform on August 7. Rounding out the series, Blato Zlato (“Swamp Gold” in Bulgarian) will perform Balkan music from New Orleans and Bulgaria on August 14. In addition to the music performances, folk artists will demonstrate and sell traditional crafts on each day of the series.
“This will be an amazing series of performances by some of the most passionate folk artists making music today” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the concert series and Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Folklife Center. “Each of these artists is keeping tradition alive by putting their own stamp on what has come before, which is why folk music is so vital and relevant to our lives. The music and conversations at these concerts will be exciting and memorable.”
Music has been engrained into Shaw’s world for as long as she can remember. That exposure greatly paid off as the Louisiana-raised musician has carved out her place in Cajun culture, and has become one of the most recognizable brands in Louisiana music. From national appearances on the “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” the Today Show’s “Roker-thon” and the “Rosie O’Donnell Show,” to a once in lifetime performances with Cyndi Lauper, Shaw’s magnetic presence helped her to build an extraordinary following of fans and supporters. Younger fans look up to Shaw for her pristine fiddling skills and sassy sense of style, while order fans respect her strong work ethic and sincere sensibility, but audiences of all ages agree that Shaw’s musical talent and appealing personality give her a special flair and make her an incredible representative of Louisiana’s melting pot of music.
Ledet’s love for the Creole/Zydeco music was instant and hard for him to ignore. He studied the originators of the music such as Clifton Chenier, John Delafose and Boozoo Chavis and branched out to include studying any and all artists of Zydeco. At the early age of 10, he picked up shows playing drums for Houston-based band Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals and slowly learned the main instrument of the music – the accordion. He came to truly love any type of accordion – the single-note, triple-note and piano key accordions – and any others. He worked at building his skills until he knew each one fluently. Ledet eventually moved to Louisiana in order to be surrounded by this beautiful culture at all times. He keeps one foot firmly in the tradition while exploring surrounding influences in order to create the best of both worlds. He is able to infuse old and new styles of Zydeco into his own unique sound from all of the people he studied and was influenced by.
For over four decades, the focus of Smithfield Fair has been harmony vocals and original songs deftly placed over acoustic instrumentation. Smithfield Fair has presented its heartfelt original music and arrangements of traditional songs across the United States on concert and festival stages; in historic venues and theatres; at large events such as the World’s Fair, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Kerrville Folk Festival; as well as in the most intimate coffeehouses, cafes and house concerts. “Flowers In Her Hair,” “Longships,” “James of the Glen,” “God Never Sleeps,” “Flying High” and other Smithfield Fair songs have become popular internationally through constant radio, satellite and internet airplay. Smithfield Fair continues to be a true original, creating hopeful and imaginative songs, and performing them with passion, honesty and humor.
Landry grew up in Breaux Bridge, not far from the levees of the Atchafalaya Basin. It was in and around that swamp where she learned an appreciation for the music, dance, stories and language of her Cajun culture. After earning a master’s degree in education and developing a successful teaching career, she began telling stories through song. Her debut award-winning album titled “Should Have Known” was released in 2010. (The album was named Offbeat Magazine’s Best Country/Folk Album and Landry “Best Country/Folk Artist”). Over the past several years, Landry has traveled the world and played countless cultural festivals and venues – from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to the Bluebird Café in Nashville. She toured Russia and served as a cultural ambassador on behalf of the Library of Congress to perform at the Festival of Traditional American Music and graced the stage at both the Library of Congress and John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Considered “one of the two or three most exciting, scary good vocalists in rock today” (David Brown, KUT/NPR), Diaz began her musical career at 13 when she co-founded the all-female rock group Girl in a Coma in 2002. Three years later the group was signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Record and began extensive traveling, creating and performing for audiences around the world as a headlining act and as support for several highly acclaimed artists. Diaz began her journey as a solo artist and released her debut album “The Beat is Dead” on Cosmica Records in 2016.
Blato Zato, who means swamp gold in Bulgarian, is a New Orleans based Balkan band featuring dreamy three-part vocal harmonies and hard hitting instrumentals. They have produced two albums, “Swamp Gold” and “In The Wake.”
Support for the NSU Folklife Concert Series is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. and the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission.
For more information, call the Louisiana Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.