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The Bayou State

The Zydekats, again playing at annual Cajun Creole festival, will try to bring Louisiana to Ventura County this weekend.

May 26, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

That raging redhead, Lisa Haley, will be right in the thick of things when the Cajun Creole Music Festival returns to Simi Valley this weekend for the 11th straight year.

A stellar lineup of players includes not just Haley but also Geno Delafose, Boozoo Chavis and fiddle whiz Doug Kershaw, and they will probably succeed in their attempt to temporarily transform the festival site into a little bit of the Bayou State.

Since its inception, the festival has continued to expand and this year has relocated to its third and largest site yet, Rancho Santa Susana Park.

Lisa Haley and her band, the Zydekats, are on a mission. They want to infect the world with "zydecosis," the only cure for which is a megadose of dancing. To that end, they will play both days of the festival, doubtless performing selections from their third and latest album, "The Music of Joe Simien." Haley also has a say in selecting the acts.

A fourth-generation fiddle player whose ancestors founded the town of Roddy in Louisiana, Haley had that musical gene awakened early by her father, who she says "could play a blade of grass." Haley first attracted notice by joining the entourage of zydeco royalty--Queen Ida, with whom she played for a year and a half.

Since her stint with the aptly named Zydeco Party Band, Haley has been busy the last few years with her own band, touring relentlessly and spreading zydecosis to a not unresponsive world. She did, however, find time to discuss her favorite Simi Valley function.

The 11th annual. Wow. What's up with that?

I'm telling you, it's a little idea that done good. I've played at every one but one, and I'm proud to be a part of it. It all started when one of my students--I love to teach but I don't have the time anymore--who was a member of the Rotary Club in Simi Valley said, "Hey, let's start a Cajun festival." The first two years it was in a historic barn, but it grew too large. Then for the next eight years, it was in the parking lot of the First National Bank, but the festival has grown too large for that place, too. This is now the largest Cajun festival on the West Coast.

And you're partly to blame for all this?

When it first started, they were asking "What's Cajun?" but now they call and ask me who's hot, who just released an album and who's getting a lot of press. This year we have probably the most popular Cajun star in the world, especially to the younger folks, Geno Delafose. We also have Boozoo Chavis, who has written a ton of Cajun songs. Last year, we had Doug Kershaw and there was a line around the block--he'll be back this year. There's also the Lil' Band O' Gold, which is an all-star Cajun band. I'm very proud of this year's lineup.

Why is zydeco music so listener friendly?

It sounds good and you can dance to it. Zydecosis is taking over the world. Zydeco music is in commercials and movies all the time now--it's going somewhere. I believe that the person to take it to the next level won't be a traditional zydeco musician. I'm not being egotistical, but why couldn't that person be me?

What's the difference between swing dancers and zydeco dancers, besides the obvious fact that the swingers dress better?

The wonderful thing about it is that you can do all your swing steps to zydeco. They're different enough to keep you there and the same enough to keep you dancing. Not everyone can carry a tune, but everyone can carry a beat.

What's the difference between a fiddle and a violin?

Fiddlin' is what you do on a violin. I started out as a classically trained player--it was a violin then. I didn't find out that I was a fourth-generation fiddle player until I was in my 20s.

Who goes to see the Zydekats?

When I was with Queen Ida, we'd only get people over 40--nothing wrong with that, but where were the kids? I decided that my grandparents' music would not get pushed off into the bushes. I'd say now that one-third of the people at our shows are between 2 and 14 years old.

Can the Zydekats play longer than the Grateful Dead in their heyday?

Last time we checked, we had 5 1/2 hours of material without repeating any songs. They're about half originals and about half covers. It's fun music that makes people happy.

DETAILS

The 11th Annual Cajun Creole Festival at Rancho Santa Susana Park, Stearns Street and Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Music Saturday: Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic (11:30 a.m.), Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (1 p.m.), Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie (2:50 p.m.), Lil' Band O' Gold (4:40 p.m.) and Doug Kershaw (6:30 p.m.). Music Sunday: Acadiana (11:30 a.m.), Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (12:45 p.m.), Rosie Ledet (2:30 p.m.), Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie (4:15 p.m.) and Boozoo Chavis (6 p.m.); $10 adults, under 10 free; 579-3316.

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