Terrance Simien will bring Mardi Gras to the Egyptian Theatre
February is Mardi Gras season and there is get into the spirit in Park City than to catch the Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend.
Simien and his band will perform Friday through Sunday. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.parkcityshows.com.
"I want to invite everyone to come and bring their Mardi Gras gear," Simien said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his home in Lafayette, Louisiana. "We’re going to have a party."
This won’t be the first time Simien and the band will play at the Egyptian. They came in a few years ago, and Simien can remember it like it happened yesterday.
"We had heard about the Egyptian Theatre, but didn’t know what to expect," he said. "We didn’t have to worry about anything, because we had such a good time."
Before the two-time Grammy winner played Park City for the first time and before he played in Africa and became the first zydeco artist to play in Cuba, Simien was a fan of zydeco, which is a style of music created by the French Creole community in Louisiana.
The music is a blend of Creole folk with the blues and rhythm and blues.
"When I was growing up in South Louisiana, the music wasn’t that popular with the young folks," Simien remembered. "My dad, every now and then, would go see zydeco shows at Slim’s Waikiki in Opelousas, Louisiana, which has been around since the 1940s.
"One night I went out with him to this dance and noticed there were a few other kids my age that were there, too."
The music caught Simien off guard and he knew he wanted to be a part of it.
"I was already a musician and I played trumpet in the school band," he said. "I had dreams at that point to have my own band someday and after getting into the zydeco, I decided to play the accordion."
After his father bought him one, Simien taught himself a couple of zydeco songs and put together a band and began playing dances.
"I was 17 and getting paid, so I guess you would consider me a professional musician at that time," Simien said laughing.
In 1985, Simien started touring outside of Louisiana and hasn’t stopped since.
"It’s been a beautiful thing," he said with a smile in his voice. "I thought this would last a certain amount of time, but here we are 30 years later."
Throughout his career, Simien has performed with fellow Grammy Award winners Los Lobos, Taj Mahal and the Dave Matthews Band, along with many other esteemed artists in the music business.
"If someone would have told me that all these things would happen to me, I would have suggested that they get some mental health [issues]," the accordionist said. "This is something you dream about. Of course, I paid my dues and slept on floors and did all that, but it’s still hard to believe that it’s still going on and people have come to love the music — now more than ever."
Simien considers it an honor to represent zydeco music.
"I’ve learned over the years about how important this music is, not for just our community, but for everybody that hears it," he said. "I’ve had people tell me that this music has stopped them from deep and dark [crap]. I’ve had some beautiful letters after they saw a show.
"When you think about it, this music has touched some of the poorest and hardest-working people who have to deal with so much adversity over the years," Simien said. "Throughout the eras, fans of this music have survived slavery and segregation and other issues today. It made them forget all of that and all the bad things. They could use the music to get together, laugh and dance. It’s strong medicine and we need this kind of healing throughout our lives."
To further his mission of preserving zydeco, Simien created a program called "Creole for Kidz & The History of Zydeco" that is presented in art centers, schools and festivals around the country.
Since it’s inception in 2000, the program has reached more than 500,000 children and their families.
"This music is a natural resource to preserve and make sure it doesn’t fall on the wayside," Simien said. "It’s my responsibility and the responsibility of all those who want to play the music to keep this alive.
"I also see the younger generation now have taken over the music and have thrown their own influences into it," he said. "That’s beautiful."
The Zydeco Experience, led by Terence Simien, will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., from Friday, Feb. 6, through Sunday, Feb. 8. The Friday and Saturday night concerts will begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday’s will start at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $23 to $40 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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