Dance culture and the social contexts that shaped Cajun musical traditions through 1950 constitute the primary focus of this study. Cajun musical expression is considered here, in relation to the varied social dynamics acting on the genre, through an analytical lens categorizing musical expression into one of three distinct, but complementary roles within its host community: home music, sung a cappella for pleasure in a domestic setting for friends, family, or personal enjoyment; ritualistic ballad recitations at significant events straddling secular and religious social spheres; and dance music performed at bals de maison (house dances) and later dance halls—a distinctive style that would be exploited commercially in the early 20th century. The contexts surrounding this vernacular American music satisfied the group’s basic needs for self-expression, social interaction, courtship, and entertainment. This chapter concludes that social context is a crucial factor in the Cajun musical equation that ultimately shapes and defines this brand of ethnic cultural expression.
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