Zydeco, from the French le zaricot or “snap beans” is a popular form of American folk music. It evolved in southwest Louisiana in the early 19th century from forms of Louisiana Creole music. Usually fast tempo and dominated by the button or piano accordion and a form of a washboard known as a vest frottoir, zydeco music was originally created at house dances, where families and friends gathered for socializing.
For 150 years, Louisiana Creoles enjoyed an insular lifestyle, prospering, educating themselves without the American government and building their invisible communities under the Code Noir. The French created the Code Noir in 1724 to establish rules for treatment of slaves, as well as restrictions and rights for gens de couleur libres, a growing class of free people of color who had the right to own land, something few blacks in the American South had at that time.
The music arose as a synthesis of traditional Creole music, some Cajun music influences, and African-American traditions, including blues and gospel. It was also often just called French music. Zydeco’s rural beginnings and the prevailing economic conditions at its inception are reflected in many of the song titles and lyrics.
It moved to rural dance halls and nightclubs. As a result, the music integrated waltzes, shuffles, two-steps, and most dance music forms of the era. Today, the tradition of change and evolution in the music continues. It stays current while integrating even more genres such as hip-hop, ska, rock, and other styles, in addition to the traditional zydeco forms.
An instrument used in Zydeco music is the vest frottoir. It is usually made from pressed, corrugated aluminium and is worn over the shoulders. Other instruments common in zydeco include the old world accordion which is found in folk and roots music globally.