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Honoring Caesar Vincent

Lafayette's Festivals Acadiens et Créoles honors Caesar Vincent

Honoring Caesar Vincent

Caesar Vincent, still from video

Each year, Lafayette’s Festivals Acadiens et Créoles honors an individual or organization, whose background provides a theme for the proceedings. This year, the festival honors the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) and Caesar Vincent, a little-known singer of songs in Louisiana French whose lyrical legacy is only now coming to light. Although parts of Vincent’s repertoire was documented by folk music recordists such as Harry Oster and Catherine Blanchet, Vincent died in 1970, right before the explosion of the Cajun cultural revival that CODOFIL helped ignite. Because Oster and Blanchet’s recordings in French Louisiana are also not particularly well known or understood, Vincent remained a virtual secret to all but a few die-hard scholars of Louisiana French folk music.

As part of the festival’s effort to spread awareness of the lyrical legacy of Caesar Vincent, a number of the festival performances will address his repertoire. The festival has also sponsored a recording project based on Vincent’s songs, featuring new performances by an all-star cast of Lafayette-area musicians, including Steve Riley, Wayne Toups, Zachary Richard, and many more.

In partnership with the festival, the Center for Louisiana Studies and the Archives of Cajun and Creole Music at the University of Louisiana are working to make a number of Vincent’s original field recordings available in digital format, which will be released first as web exclusives leading up to the festival.

Fans of HBO’s True Detective and Cajun music aficionados will recognize this particular song as a cousin of the Blind Uncle Gaspard classic, “Sur le Bord de l’Eau.”  A transcription and translation from folklorist Barry Ancelet follows here, and people interested in more in-depth details can seek out his explanatory notes in the Vincent tribute CD, which will be released in the days leading up to Festivals Acadiens.

This year’s Festivals Acadiens will take place October 11–14 in Lafayette. For more information, visit the festival website.

Sur le Bord du Vaisseau

Tu chantes une chanson-ze, je voudrais la connaître
Tu chantes une chanson-ze, je voudrais la connaître
Je voudrais la connaître sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Je voudrais la connaître sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame-re, je vas vous la chanter
Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame, je vas vous la chanter
Je vas vous la chanter sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Je vas vous la chanter sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Embarquez dans ma barque-re, au bois nous vont-r-aller
Embarquez dans ma barque-re, au bois nous vont-r-aller
Au bois nous vont-r-aller sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Au bois nous vont-r-aller sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Au bout de trois jours et trois jours et trois semaines
Au bout de trois jours et trois jours et trois semaines
La belle s’a mise à pleurer sur le bord de l’eau-ze
La belle s’a mise à pleurer sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Et qu’avez-vous, Madame, avez-vous à tant pleurer?
Et qu’avez-vous, Madame, avez-vous à tant pleurer?
Je pleure ce grand nigaud sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Je pleure ce grand nigaud sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame-re, au large nous retournerait
Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame-re, au large nous retournerait
Au large nous retournerait sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Au large nous retournerait sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Et quand Madame s’est vue rendue-tr-au large-ze, elle s’est mise à chanter
Et quand Madame s’est vue rendue-tr-au large-ze, elle s’est mise à chanter
Elle s’est mise à chanter sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Elle s’est mise à chanter sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame-re au bois nous vont-r-aller
Embarquez dans ma barque-re, Madame-re, au bois nous vont-r-aller
Au bois nous vont-r-aller sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Au bois nous vont-r-aller sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

Tandis que tu tenais la caille au bois-ze, il faulait tu la plumes
Tandis que tu tenais la caille au bois-ze, il faulait tu la plumes
Il faulait tu la plumes sur le bord de l’eau-ze
Il faulait tu la plumes sur le bord de l’eau, sur le bord du vaisseau

You’re singing a song, I would like to know it
You’re singing a song, I would like to know it
I would like to know it at the edge of the water
I would like to know it at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, I’ll sing it to you
Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, I’ll sing it to you
I’ll sing it to you on at the edge of the water
I’ll sing it to you at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
Come aboard my dinghy, then to the woods we’ll go
Come aboard my dinghy, then to the woods we’ll go
To the woods we’ll go at the edge of the water
To the woods we’ll go at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
After three days, three days and three weeks
After three days, three days and three weeks
The maiden began to weep at the edge of the water
The maiden began to weep at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
And what reason do you have, Madam, do you have to weep so?
And what reason do you have, Madam, do you have to weep so?
I weep for this great fool at the edge of the water
I weep for this great fool at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, to sea we shall return
Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, to sea we shall return
To sea we shall return at the edge of the water
To see we shall return at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
And when Madam saw herself back at sea, she began to sing
And when Madam saw herself back at sea, she began to sing
She began to sing at the edge of the water
She began to sing at the edge of the water, aboard the ship
 
[Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, to the woods we shall return
Come aboard my dinghy, Madam, to the woods we shall return
To the woods we shall return at the edge of the water
To the woods we shall return at the edge of the water, aboard the ship]
 
While you held the quail in the woods, you needed to pluck it
While you held the quail in the woods, you needed to pluck it
You needed to pluck it at the edge of the water
You needed to pluck it at the edge of the water, aboard the ship