Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Rachel Breunlin, Le Kèr Creole: Creole Composition & Stories from Louisiana (University of New Orleans Press)

The Louisiana Creole language, referred to by many as Creole French, surrounds those living in Louisiana even more than most people probably realize. It’s been defined as “a francophone language with connections to West 

Africa” and the book, Le Kèr Creole, and its accompanying CD, bring further awareness of its pervasiveness. One of the purposes of this package is to shine a light on the fact that Louisiana Creole, which was outlawed in 1921 and its use discouraged in schools in many areas of the state, is presently considered to be one of the most “endangered languages in the world.” Laws and prohibitions didn’t deter those who continued to speak and sing in their “home language” that prevails primarily in southwest Louisiana and in New Orleans. A surprising number of jazz and zydeco musicians, Mardi Gras Indians and residents of Louisiana that include a variety of professions, grew up speaking—or at least hearing—their parents and neighbors speaking Creole French daily, as is pointed out through the book’s essays, first-person commentaries, photographs and artwork. 

Accordionist and vocalist Bruce Sunpie Barnes and drummer and vocalist Leroy Joseph Etienne composed original material and arranged traditional songs for the fine album. The CD allows one to savor the flavorful sound of the language and, importantly, all the lyrics to the tunes, which are sung in Creole French, and are provided in both English and Creole. Amusingly, listeners are able to learn that Etienne’s lovely, Caribbean-tinged “Od Pour Odelia,” which would seem to be a love song, is really a tune about a man selling rotten bananas. 

Le Kèr Creole creatively offers the history of Creole French and celebrates those who have kept the language vital through words and songs.