Q&A: Terrence Simien and The Zydeco Experience

BY EMILY BURDS | MAY 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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As a kickoff to Iowa City’s Summer of the Arts, one of southern Louisiana’s historic cultural musicians and Grammy winner, Terrance Simien, will perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Pedestrian Mall.

Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience will release its most recent record on Friday as well, after three years of production working with producer George Receli — best known as having been one of Bob Dylan’s drummers. The record is filled with a wide variety of songs, “just like a jumbalaya,” said Simien  and even includes a track that was cowritten and sung by Simien’s daughter.

The Daily Iowan got a chance to chat with Simien as he travels through Iowa promoting his Creole for Kidz program as a part of a two-week residency with Hancher. The program teaches kids about Creole history and zydeco music.

DI: Have you ever been to or played in Iowa before you arrived for your residency?

Simien: We’ve played in Iowa several times before and did different things. I think the first time I might have played in Iowa might have been the late-80s, so we go way back. We love Iowa. And you know what I like about the state? In every part of it, you have something different going on. Sioux City got its own thing going on, and we’ve played there several times for a celebration called “Saturday At the Park.” We also did a residency around the Quad City area and of course played many blues festivals. We’ve been having such a good time with the kids and our regular performances here. It just reiterates to me how awesome the state of Iowa is. Because every part of it has its own personality. We’ve been really enjoying it.

DI: You’ve been promoting your Creole for Kidz program these past two weeks in Iowa. How has that been going? Why did you decide to pursue such a program?

Simien:  That’s been going real good. Every time I come do our kids show like we’ve been doing in Iowa, it just really makes me feel good about the future. You guys have got some incredible kids here. They really take to the music and take to the education that we try to give them about diversity.

There are many reasons for me starting this program, but one of the main reasons is to get right information out from the source. I’m a source musician. My family has been in Louisiana since the 1700s. Our community has its own thing. It’s a story about many different people coming together, like no one else. I just wanted to give out that information on the music. The true history of the music and where it comes from. Because this is American history as well as Louisiana history, and we have so many different cultures here and so many different stories, like the Creole story around the country that you can’t find in a history book or it’s not being taught in school. I’m just happy to be able to go out in front of this whole thing and giving the kids a history lesson and have a good time.

DI: How was it working with Disney on its animated film Princess and the Frog, which was set in Louisiana?

Simien: I did a song with Randy Newman, and that was an unbelievable experience. It was a great experience for zydeco music as a whole. It was wonderful being a part of that.

That movie really showed Louisiana in a way that was never shown before, and to be a part of a historical Disney movie was great. You know that was the first black princess to be featured in a Disney classic, and to be a part of that was really an honor. It was well-done. I went to the première, and I was talking to one of my bandmates looking at this movie and tears were coming down from my eyes because it was like the first time somebody nailed it. And for me that meant so much just to get the whole thing right. They couldn’t have done it any better.

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