Heart of Louisiana: South Louisiana instruments

Heart of Louisiana: South Louisiana instruments
Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 2:47 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2017 at 8:59 PM CDT
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(WVUE) - The music of South Louisiana has a sound that is known around the world. And one of the reasons for its unique sound is that it relies on some locally made instruments. A new exhibit at the Hilliard Museum of Art in Lafayette features the work of dozens of musical instrument makers.

Anya Burgess builds and repairs violins. She's also an accomplished performer. Burgess And fellow violin maker Chris Segura have curated an exhibition at the Hilliard Museum in Lafayette. It features Louisiana-made musical instruments that sustain the rhythm and edgy sounds of of Cajun and Zydeco music.

"We just tried to locate as many current instrument makers in this region as possible," Burgess said. " And we have come up with a great collection."

"I think what sets South Louisiana apart is the ingenuity that these people had, so I mean, they used whatever they could find to make something playable," said Chris Segura.

That Cajun ingenuity is on display. There is this single-string, tobacco can fiddle, shown off here by its creator. A violin made out of a wooden cigar box,  another made out of Formica from a counter top.

"It's playable," Segura said. "It sounds really different, it feels really different, but it's playable."

And then there's a shiny peddle-steel guitar made with over 100 parts from a plumbing supply store.

"Pretty sure that's like a toilet knob right here," Segura said. "Yeah, it says Kohler on it."

As Cajun music moved to larger venues and needed amplification, early accordion maker Sidney Brown had a solution.

"The pickup right here is actually a telephone receiver," Segura said.

"If you are going to play Cajun music, you play an accordion that was built in South Louisiana or East Texas," Burgess said. "We have dozens of accordion builders within probably a 100-mile radius. I don't know of any other pocket of instrument makers that exists like that in the U.S.

And there are other uniquely Cajun and Zydeco instruments like the over-the-shoulder rubboards and triangles, spoons and even bones that keep the rhythms of the two-step and waltz.

The oldest pieces date back to the 1920s and 30s from violin maker and store owner Emar Andrepont. ow did he learn how to make violins in Prairie Eronde.

"That's one of the big questions," Segura said. "The fact that he had access to say another instrument that he could model his off of. This is some really fine maple. That's one of my biggest questions. How did he actually source this, you know?"

You can see the quality of Louisiana-made instruments, including violins by curators Anya Burgess and Chris Segura and flashy guitar designs from alligator hide to armadillo. It's an exhibit that shows how South Louisiana created a sound and a music that it now exports around the world.

The musical instruments will be on display through Oct. 15

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