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Horace Trahan

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In the story about Horace Trahan that's making the rounds, the Cajun singer and accordion player took an incident from Louisiana's history, gave it a twist of his own, and used it to teach himself a second language. The historical event in question began around the 1920s, when young Cajuns in the state were denied the right to speak the language of their heritage, a unique blend known as Cajun French. A law was laid down that said children could not speak the language at school. English-only was the rule of the day for all children, despite the fact that many of them had never spoken it before and had grown up in homes where only Cajun French was spoken. The theory was that such a complete and total immersion would better help them learn English, and so better prepare them to face the English-speaking world that awaited them. A side effect, however, was that this turn of events made being Cajun something to be looked down upon. Unlike today, when Cajun music and food are "in," back then it was especially uncool to be Cajun. Trahan, not nearly old enough to remember that time, drew on the pride he felt for his heritage and set out to learn French. He devised his own language immersion program, speaking nothing but French until he learned it. Today, Trahan sings in both English and French, and he also composes. Ossun Blues, his first album, released through Swallow Records in 1996, includes lyrics in both languages. His soulful style drew comparisons to Iry LeJeune. Trahan grew up in Ossun, LA, not far from Lafayette. Felix Richard, his second cousin, gave him instruction on the accordion. Felix Richard is also credited with teaching Zachary Richard. Trahan's first time singing and playing in public came about by accident. He was jamming in Eunice's Jean Lafitte Acadian Culture Center when a woman working nearby in the Liberty Theater overheard him. When Trahan was invited over to the theater, he sang such a moving rendition of "Viens Me Chercher" that audience members were wiping their eyes and he received a standing ovation. By the summer of 1999, he founded a band, the New Ossun Express, and started deviating from his earlier sound to a newer zydeco slant. When some fans objected to the change in style, Trahan countered with the song "Don't Worry About Horace," which was included on his first recording with the band, Get on Board. He followed up, in 2001, with Reach Out and Touch a Hand, which launched the earthy tune "That Butt Thing." The album features original songs as well as some long-favored numbers by artists such as Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis. The New Ossun Express includes drummer Paul Delafosse, guitarist Paul "Slim" Washington, and scrub board player John "Sheriff" Best. ~ Linda Seida

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