Buckwheat’s Zydeco: A Congo Square Tribute to the Spirit of Southwest
Louisiana by R. Gregory Christie
Before Congo Square hosted the first Jazz Fest, before it became the spiritual center of Jazz Fest’s celebration of Afro-Caribbean influences on American art, it was America’s original musical melting pot. Its core position in the development of Louisiana’s cultural gifts to the world is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the interplay that birthed Zydeco. Modern Zydeco evolved a half-century later, in those same Creole communities on the Louisiana prairies during the 1920’s, drawing from blues, Jazz, R&B and Cajun influences. Lafayette native Stanley Dural, Jr., known since the age of four as “Buckwheat” because his braided hair was reminiscent of the Our Gang movies character. was more a fan of R&B than of Zydeco. As a keyboard prodigy he backed major roadhouse acts including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (CS0S). On his climb to the top, the New York Times pronounced him the leader of one of the best bands in America,” and USA Today called him a “Zydeco trailblaze r.” Zydeco’s most popular ambassador has shared his propulsive roots music on record and on stage with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robert Plant. U2, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and the Boston Pops among many others. He played the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympics and for both of President Clinton’s inaugurals.
Artist R. Gregory Christie traces his own Southwest Louisiana Creole roots to his mother’s family in New Roads where still returns to see his aunts, uncles and cousins. For over two decades, he’s been pushing brilliant hues into warmly expressive frontiers. His overt influences were Romare Bearden, Picasso and Jacob Lawrence, but h is folk-inspired synthesis makes his shrewdly structured, intellectually fresh pieces accessible and compelling.