Michael Doucet, fiddler, composer, and bandleader, is perhaps the single most important figure in the revitalization of Cajun music in the United States. Cajun is the shorthand name for the French settlers of southwest Louisiana who were expelled from the Acadian region of Canada in the 18th century. During the first half of the 20th century, both the language and music of French Louisiana seemed to be in decline. Doucet, who grew up surrounded by traditional musicians and storytellers in southwest Louisiana, was more interested in popular music during his teenage years. He studied literature in school, but while playing music at a festival in France in 1974, was exposed to musical antecedents of his own heritage and this inspired him to return to Louisiana on a mission to learn everything he could about Cajun music and history.
In 1975, he applied to the National Endowment for the Arts for an apprenticeship grant to study with and document the master fiddlers of his region. As a result of this project, he was able to learn first-hand from the great masters of Cajun and Creole music with links to an earlier era. Eventually, he formed his own band, BeauSoleil, which is today recognized as the premiere traditional Cajun musical ensemble. With numerous nominations, BeauSoleil's L'Amour Ou La Folie received the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Cajun music, thanks to artists such as Michael Doucet, is known the world over, and young people of the region are following in his footsteps. He says: "To me, Cajun music really is the heart of our culture. It's not the stomach – we know that's the food. It's music that's the heart. Everybody sings in their own way down here, and that's what keeps us going."
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