Heart of Louisiana: Steve Riley

Heart of Louisiana: Steve Riley
The Riley Family Band (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Like most musicians, February marks almost a full year since Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys had their last show. That was Mardi Gras 2020.

A year later, Riley is performing online with his two young sons in a family band in the backyard of their home in Scott, Louisiana.

“It’s very hard to have to stop doing something that brought you so much joy. To play festivals, to place dance halls,” Riley said. “I play to see people dancing and just forgetting about their worries.”

Riley has found a new way to create that joy, forming the Riley Family Band, which features him, 11-year-old Burke, and 8-year-old Dolsy. They’ve already mastered some classic Cajun tunes.

“We’ve done a lot of rehearsing, a lot of learning new songs. The kids are learning vocals. At this point, they just come to me and they’re like ‘Dad, I learned this song. Can you help me finish it?’” Riley says.

The band does shows from their house on Facebook, including a live concert for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard for those who play traditional music like cajun music to get together and learn songs. Most of the jam sessions with young players sitting next to older, more experienced musicians are shut down.

“I think it’s really cool that I have a family that passed down from generation to generation playing Cajun music,” Burke says.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see as a father who loves cajun tradition and cajun music,” Steve says. “That’s the way this music is handed down.”

The youngsters learned to sing some songs in french and take turns playing the accordion.

This is the music Steve learned from his great ancestors when he was a kid growing up in Mamou. He’s now passing that love of Cajun music on to another generation.

The Riley Family Band has a live performance scheduled for Feb. 14 on their Facebook page.

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