The Creole Belles: Passing It On

The Creole Belles: Passing It On

July 29, 2014  |  Cajun Zydeco, Events

The San Leandro Library has a wonderful community enrichment program where, from time to time, the public is invited to enjoy a free musical performance. When I saw that the Creole Belles were on the schedule, I couldn’t wait to go. As I listened to folks waiting for the doors to open, it was clear that for some of them this was an introduction to Cajun music. They could not know how lucky they were.

The Creole Belles are three women who live in California, but who have studied Cajun music with some of the legends of Southwest Louisiana. Delilah Lee Lewis lived near Eunice, Louisiana from 1982 to 1985, studying the fiddle with Dennis McGee, Canray Fontenot, and Wade Frugé, among others. Maureen Karpan studied accordion with Danny Poullard, Marc Savoy, and Jesse Lége. Karen Leigh has played rhythm guitar with Dewey Balfa and the Savoy Family Band.

These women connect with Cajun music on a deep level. One of my favorite books on this subject, Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California by Mark F. DeWitt, tells Delilah’s story in great detail. There is a wonderful photograph of her playing fiddle with Bébé Carriere in 1982. Now, Bébé’s son Andrew Carriere is a frequent guest musician with the Belles. Their music, and the way they play it, is rich in history. Do yourself a favor and spend some time on this page of their website. The photographs are priceless.

The background fascinates me, but in the end it’s really just about the music. It was especially fun to watch how it grabbed the littlest ones in the audience. Did they care about all that history, all those stories? Not at all. They just wanted to dance.

I think those Louisiana legends would approve.

The Creole Belles’ CD is available on Arhoolie Records.

Click on the first image below to enlarge it and scroll through the slideshow.


  1. I love how you are bringing us deeper into Cajun Zydeco and revealing more stories, especially love the pictures of the kids. It’s good to know the tradition is being carried on!

    • Thank you, Sabrina! It has been so interesting to discover how important this roots music is in the Bay Area. It has been fascinating to meet some of the musicians who study and play Cajun and Zydeco music here. It is truly a rich tradition. I have come to it late, but better late than never!

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