Hailed as "...a Zydeco master...his voice yearning like Sam Cooke" by Rolling Stone Magazine, Louisiana's Terrance Simien, a eighth-generation Creole, is recognized world-wide as one of the pre-eminent artists in the genre. Zydeco is a dynamic music form that continues to evolve, as up-and-coming musicians blend contemporary elements with traditional sounds and instrumentation. It is only fitting then that the "master" becomes a mentor to an exceptional young talent.
Simien is thus featured in the new HBO documentary series, The Music In Me: Children's Recitals From Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco, debuting Saturday October 7 at 7:00 pm EST/6:30 pm PST. The first episode profiles several gifted young musicians from different musical and cultural traditions, including 7-year-old Guyland Leday, a Zydeco accordionist from Frilot Cove, La., who Simien discovered and has taken under his wing.
A true prodigy, Guyland received a toy accordion from his father on his first Christmas, was able to play it by the time he turned two and now carries on the tradition of his late great-grandfather, a well-known accordion player, who, according to Guyland, teaches him to play in his dreams. When Simien first met young Leday, the child was playing a full-size Zydeco accordion. Simien was so impressed by Guyland's talent that he had a smaller-scale instrument custom-made for the youngster who now uses it when he performs.
This Friday, Simien will proudly step out of his usual role as front man to lead a Zydeco supergroup, The Opelousas Playboys, when they perform with Guyland at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall at HBO's premiere celebration and screening of "The Music In Me."
Immediately following the show in New York Simien will return to Louisiana where he will perform in Lafayette and at the week-long Red River Revel in Shreveport before heading to Canada for a string of shows. His new CD, Across the Parish Line, on AIM Records, features 14 songs sung in French, the traditional language of Zydeco, as well as Spanish and English and includes guests Paul Simon, Marcia Ball, David Hidalgo, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. In addition to several original tunes, Simien offers poignant and memorable interpretations of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," Robbie Robertson's "Twilight," and the Clifton Chenier classic Zydeco song "You Used to Call Me," a track originally recorded by a teenage Simien and Paul Simon for Simon's Graceland, appearing here for the first time since it's initial release in 1985 of only 500 copies.
Terrance Simien is one of the most highly regarded contemporary proponents of Zydeco, the indigenous music of Louisiana's Creole culture. Since he emerged as a teenage prodigy out of Mallet in St. Landry Parish 25 years ago, the singer/accordionist/ bandleader has diligently furthered the legacy of his forebears in a particularly bold way, pushing the stylistic envelope by seamlessly incorporating elements of soul, rock, reggae and other genres into his native idiom.
His expansive approach to this rich and vital form has won over fans across America and around the world. As a musical ambassador, the tireless artist and his group, the Zydeco Experience, have done a remarkable job of bringing Zydeco to the mainstream, sharing stages with the likes of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Robert Palmer and the Dave Matthews Band, and forming a long-standing mutual admiration for their spiritual kinsmen in Los Lobos. Additionally, the artist's 2004 album Creole for Kids and the History of Zydeco earned widespread praise from music critics and educators alike, while his arts-in-education performances have reached a quarter of a milli