New Orleans, LA: Public radio’s American Routes has organized the first-ever tour by a Louisiana French band to mainland China. Jesse Lege, Joel Savoy & Cajun Country Revival will perform April 1-12 at American Cultural Centers, U.S. Consulates and clubs in Guangzhou, Harbin, Nanjing and Shanghai. Nick Spitzer, American Routes producer and professor of American studies and anthropology at Tulane University, is artistic director. In addition to the musical performances, Spitzer will conduct oral history workshops and give lectures on French Louisiana culture. Cajun filmmaker Conni Castille will show and discuss her documentaries ‘I Always Do My Collars First’—A film about ironing (2007) and T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story (2012).

In May the Campbell Brothers, masters of the sacred steel guitar, will also tour China under the auspices of American Routes Abroad.

Accordionist Jesse Lege grew up in a rural, pre-electricity home in Gueydan, Louisiana. His first language was Cajun French and he learned music from relatives, neighbors, and the family’s much-loved battery-powered radio. Today Lege is one of the most admired Cajun accordionists and vocalists, known especially for his clear, “crying” vocals. Jesse Lege has played and sung French songs for over 40 years in Gulf Coast dancehalls. In 1998, Jesse was inducted into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.

Fiddler Joel Savoy, son of Cajun music royalty Marc and Ann Savoy, grew up in Eunice, Louisiana, during the renaissance of local French culture. A virtuosic young fiddler, Joel is dedicated to living the legacy of Cajun culture through music and traditional events like the courir de Mardi Gras and boucheries. In 2006 Savoy founded Valcour Records, a primary source for French music in Acadiana. He has received critical acclaim in various roles as musician, producer and recording engineer, including one Grammy Award (2012) and seven nominations. Joel is a two-time winner of the Cajun French Music Association’s Fiddler of the Year award.

Cajun Country Revival includes fiddle and guitar player Stephen “Sammy” Lind and bassist and singer Nadine Landry.

American Routes is produced at Tulane University. The program received a Taiji award from the China Conservatory of Music (2012) for preservation and presentation of traditional music, and previously organized US-China exchange programs with a cowboy band, New Orleans jazz and seminars on comparative cultural policy. Nick Spitzer said of the Cajun music and culture tour, “Our American Routes Abroad series is ‘vernacular cultural diplomacy.’ It brings great traditional artists from diverse American communities to China and elsewhere. It’s gratifying to see Chinese audiences react to American traditional cultures. U.S. audiences will be able to hear the results on American Routes.

Tour support is provided by the U.S. State Department, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Institute of Technology, Tulane University and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

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