Each year, Lafayette’s Festivals Acadiens et Créoles honors an individual or organization, whose background provides a theme for the proceedings. This year, the festival honors the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) and Caesar Vincent, a little-known singer of songs in Louisiana French whose lyrical legacy is only now coming to light. Although parts of Vincent’s repertoire was documented by folk music recordists such as Harry Oster and Catherine Blanchet, Vincent died in 1970, right before the explosion of the Cajun cultural revival that CODOFIL helped ignite. Because Oster and Blanchet’s recordings in French Louisiana are also not particularly well known or understood, Vincent remained a virtual secret to all but a few die-hard scholars of Louisiana French folk music.

As part of the festival’s effort to spread awareness of the lyrical legacy of Caesar Vincent, a number of the festival performances will address his repertoire. The festival has also sponsored a recording project based on Vincent’s songs, featuring new performances by an all-star cast of Lafayette-area musicians, including Steve Riley, Wayne Toups, Zachary Richard, and many more.

In partnership with the festival, the University of Louisiana’s Center for Louisiana Studies, which houses the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore, is working to make a number of Oster’s original field recordings of Vincent’s music available in digital format. These will be released first as web exclusives leading up to the festival.

Many older French songs feature shepherdesses and ravenous wolves in a fantastical woodland setting. In this song, a shepherd courts a girl by playing a song that makes his sheep dance. Everyone seems to be having a fine time, except for the shepherd's grandmother, who doesn't feel like dancing. Whether this is because her husband has been eaten by wolves or because dancing sheep is somewhat disturbing is unclear.


Video courtesy of the Center for Louisiana Studies' Archives of Cajun & Creole Folklore

Caesar Vincent's "Il y a une fille à marier"

Transcription and translation: Barry Ancelet

En arrière de chez mon père, il y a une fille à marier
Il y a-t-une fille à marier, hé digué don don
Il y a-t-une fille à marier, hé digué don dé
Il y a-t-une fille à marier, hé digué don don
Il y a-t-une fille à marier, hé digué don dé
Oh oui, j’ai pris ma tureluture-tre-et j’ai commencé-z-à tureluter
Oh oui, j’ai pris ma tureluture-tre-et j’ai commencé-z-à tureluter
Tous mes moutons s’ont rassemblé, hé digué don don
Ils s’ont tous mis ouais à danser, hé digué don dé
Tous mes moutons s’ont rassemblé, hé digué don don
Ils s’ont tous mis ouais à danser, hé digué don dé
Il y avait pus que ma vieille grandmère qui ne voulait pas danser
Il y avait pus que ma vieille grandmère qui ne voulait pas danser
Et qu’avez-vous, ma vieille grandmère, hé digué don don
Et qu’avez-vous à pus danser, hé digué don dé
Et qu’avez-vous, ma vieille grandmère, hé digué don don
Et qu’avez-vous à pus danser, hé digué don dé
J’ai une songère de mon grandpère que les loups aviont mangé
J’ai une songère de mon grandpère que les loups aviont mangé
Là ayoù les loups l’aviont mangé, hé digué don dé
C’était là bas dans le grand bois, hé digué don don
Là ayoù les loups l’aviont mangé, hé digué don don
Là ayoù les loups l’aviont trainé, hé digué don don
C’était là bas dans le grand bois, hé digué don dé


Behind my father’s house, there is a girl to marry
There is a girl to marry, hé digué don don
There is a girl to marry, hé digué don dé
There is a girl to marry, hé digué don don
There is a girl to marry, hé digué don dé
Oh, yes, I took my jig harp and I began to play it
Oh, yes I took my jig harp and I began to play it
All of my sheep came together, hé digué don don
They all started dancing, hé digué don dé
All of my sheep came together, hé digué don don
They all started dancing, hé digué don dé
There was only my old grandmother who did not want to dance
There was only my old grandmother who did not want to dance
And why, my old grandmother, hé digué don don
Why do you no longer dance, hé digué don dé
And why, my old grandmother, hé digué don don
Why do you no longer dance, hé digué don dé
I have a memory of my grandfather whom the wolves have eaten
I have a memory of my grandfather whom the wolves have eaten
Where the wolves ate him, hé digué don dé
It’s out there in the deep woods, hé digué don don
Where the wolves at him, hé digué don don
Where the wolves dragged him, hé digué don don
It’s out there in the deep woods, hé digué don dé