Keeping the Tradition Alive

Blair Kilpatrick and Steve Tabak

Keeping the Tradition Alive

December 13, 2013  |  Cajun Zydeco, Local Interest

It was a warm September afternoon when I approached Blair Kilpatrick’s Berkeley home. The sounds of Cajun accordion and fiddle floated out through the open windows. Inside, the living room was littered with instrument cases and in the small dining room musicians sat side by side. They played music that some knew well and some were learning, but it was music they all love.

It was a house jam. It’s a musical tradition that Cajuns and Creoles brought with them to the Bay Area when they settled here during and after WWII. It’s a way that music is taught, and learned, and shared among like-minded people. When Blair discovered, and became obsessed with, the accordion in the 1990s, she learned from Creole accordionist Danny Poullard. She and her fiddle-playing husband, Steve Tabak, attended Danny’s weekly jams in his Fairfield garage. Blair writes movingly of her journey with this music in her memoir Accordion Dreams. With Danny’s guidance, she gained confidence and skill, until the day she and Steve were ready to play for a wider audience. They formed a Cajun band called Sauce Piquante.

When Danny Poullard died suddenly in 2001, it was Blair and Steve who understood that the jams must continue. This type of Roots music encompasses a whole culture. It’s a musical genre, yes, but it is also a community. Blair writes, “It is a hard thing to understand, until you have made music with other people, and have felt it: That powerful connection that feels so intimate — and at the same time impersonal, linking everyone to something larger, outside themselves.”

Not everyone wants to form a band and perform in public. Some just want a chance to play with other people. And this house jam, hosted by Blair and Steve, offers a friendly and supportive place to do just that. It was a wonderful thing to witness.

 

You can hear Sauce Piquante play at the Kensington Farmer’s Market on January 19th. You can find Blair’s book, Accordion Dreamshere.

Click on an image below to enlarge it and scroll through the gallery.

 

 

 


3 Comments


  1. Thank you, Dorothy! You captured the energy and ambience of our Cajun-Creole music community so beautifully, with your graceful words and stunning photos. Steve and I are touched and honored. (He certainly deserves equal credit for launching and sustaining these jams!)

    One small correction: Sauce Piquante’s next appearance at the Kensington Farmers’ Market is on January 19th.

    Thanks again! Come back any time.

    Blair

    • Thank you, Blair. I am touched by your response. I am truly enjoying my experiences with this music, and meeting the wonderful people associated with it. I’m so sorry about the confusion with your gig. I have made the correction in the text above. And don’t worry . . . I’ll be back!

  2. Dorothy,
    MThis is an awesome montage. The colors, instruments, faces, attire, hardwood gets the Cajun feel. You are a gifted photographer! Thank you,
    Kurtis

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