FolkFire Articles

January / February 2001

  • Cajun, Balfa Toujours Style
  • Celebrating French Heritage

  • January / February reviews and profiles
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  • Cajun, Balfa Toujours Style

    Balfa Toujours Band was formed by an innovative group of traditional musicians as an outlet for the joys and sorrows in the Balfa family lives. The late Cajun fiddler, Dewey Balfa was a mentor for the Balfa Toujours members, thus his music continues. Dewey Balfa brought Cajun music out of Louisiana in 1964 to the Rhode Island Newport Folk Festival. He found that instead of embarrassing the Cajun community with their chank-a-chank music, the country embraced them! Many St. Louisans may remember seeing Dewey under the Arch at the Gateway Heritage Festival many years ago. The heirs to the Balfa family tradition carry with them the past, present and future of Cajun music. Daughter, Christine Balfa, sings, plays guitar and writes new songs in the Cajun style. Dirk Powell, her husband, gave Christine the courage to pursue a career in music and supports the group on accordion and fiddle. Dirk has been adopted by both spirit and marriage into the Cajun community. His Appalachian music roots are very similar in feel and tradition to those of the Cajuns. Both communities have embraced music as an emotional release to heal the worries of their lives spent working hard with little return. Another adopted son of the Cajun culture, Kevin Wimmer, was also a student of Dewey Balfa. Kevin learned Cajun style playing second fiddle with Dewey and stayed at his home for a period of time. Kevin suddenly headed south one day in search of Dewey and was taken in. Cajun music has the ability to touch the soul and kidnap its audience. It expresses a sense of the community and carries the warm traditions of the Cajun people, lost to our modern society. Courtney Granger, Christine's 17-year old cousin, who plays bass, currently rounds out the band. A descendent of the Balfa clan Courtney has already produced his first CD.

    Balfa Toujours' most recent CD, "Live at Whiskey River Landing", captures the Fais Do Do or Cajun dance party live in Cajun country. Balfa Toujours will appear at the St. Louis Brewery & Taproom on Friday February 9, at 8:30 p.m. Brought to you by Focal Point. Advanced tickets are available through Focal Point 314 781-4200 or Music Folk in Webster Groves.

    Visit their web site at

    Celebrating French Heritage
    by ?

    Looking for an alternative to celebrating Mardi Gras in our city's streets, how about a Colonial Costume Ball? There are three such events held each year in this area during Mardi Gras season. Be forewarned however, that many of the folks who attend these balls are really serious about their costumes and the reinactment of the era of early European occupants of this area. Some participants even develop personas to go with their period costumes.

    The first of the festive events is the 12th Night Ball in Prairie du Rocher, near the old fort. When my husband and I first attended, we drew the attention of some seasoned participants because we lacked period costumes. They made us feel more than welcome and made sure that we had a pleasant evening. One of our new friends went by the name of One-Eyed Jack and claimed to have lost an eye looking through a keyhole. We were inspired and enchanted enough to make our own costumes for the next ball. The costumes are typically French Colonial with a few Scottish kilts and American Indian attire thrown in for good measure. Great efforts are made to simulate the period with candles, picnic baskets, pewter drinking mugs and corked bottles.

    Along with drinking, eating and merriment comes music and dancing to round out the evening's activities. Musicians and dance callers from the St. Louis old time music community direct the dancing. Polkas and waltzes are played and dances such as the Virginia Reel are called. The Paddle Dance, the most popular and amusing, begins with opposing lines of men and women. A man may start at the top of the line holding a boat paddle with the first two women at either side. He decides which one he wants to dance with and hands the paddle to the other woman. As the music plays he dances down the center of the lines with his chosen partner while the rejected woman gets ready to chose one of the first two men in next in line. They dance in their own style, as there is no prescribed dance step. This group relishes freedom as much as the early settlers they emulate did.

    The 12th Night Ball is Saturday, January 6, 2001 in Prairie du Rocher at the local American Legion Hall, on Illinois Rte 3, south of St. Louis. From 8:00 p.m. to midnight, featured musicians, Cousin Curtis and the Cash Rebates will perform.

    The King's Ball in Ste. Genevieve, MO at the local VFW hall is usually the first Saturday in February. Cousin Curtis and the Cash Rebates will again provide the music. I am sure Cousin Curtis can provide the date as time approaches. Call Donna at (314) 869-8216 if you wish to attend.

    The Annual Fete du Bon Vieux Temps is on Saturday February 24 and always occurs on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. There are day activities in the historic area on 5th Street in Cahokia, IL just off Illinois Rte 3. The ball takes place at the Knights of Columbus Hall from 7:00 to 11:00 p m. Geoff Seitz and Friends will provide the music. For information, call Molly McKenzie at 618-332-1782.

    So, as they say, at the ball you can laissez les bons temps roulez!