For 30 years, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys have been advancing the art of Cajun Music. But due to COVID, it’s been a year since the grammy-nominated band’s last performance. Steve Riley is now grooming The Family Band.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys played their last gig on Mardi Gras 2020. There will be no performances for Mardi Gras 2021 due to restrictions with the COVID pandemic. But Riley is determined to keep Cajun music alive. So he enlisted his two young sons, 11-year-old Burke and 8-year-old Dolsy, and created the Steve Riley Family Band.
cajun music live online
The Family Band has become a regular online, performing live on the Riley Family Band Facebook page. When you hear them play, it’s clear that Riley has taught his sons well. They switch-off instruments, alternating between accordion, guitar and drum. Their online audience is treated to a songbook of some of the most popular songs in Cajun music.
In June of 2020, Grammy-winner Steve Riley and his sons performed in a Homegrown Concert by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. The half-hour concert streamed live online. Riley introduces the Cajun songs as he and his sons swap instruments.
Riley says his sons have always shown an interest in Cajun music, and have taken advantage of the many instruments they find around the house. “We’ve done a lot of rehearsing, a lot of learning new songs,” Riley says. “And at this point they just come to me and they’re like, Dad, I learned this song. Can you help me finish it?”
A cajun music tradition
Pre-COVID, it was easy to find a weekly Cajun music jam session at a number of places across southern Louisiana. The older musicians would sit side-by-side with younger players who learn the notes and the French vocals of traditional Cajun songs. That’s how the music has always been passed down from one generation to the next. Riley says, “this is a perfect time to take advantage of the time we have together”.
growing up with cajun music in mamou
Steve Riley had a similar experience growing up in the small Cajun prairie community of Mamou. There were frequent house parties and dances in the community where a young Steve listened to older relatives perform Cajun music. They taught him how to play the accordion and sing the popular traditional songs.
Riley is now considered one of the best players of the Cajun accordion. Steve Riley was awarded a Grammy in 2012 with The Band Courtbouillon. He has been nominated six more times for work with various bands including the Mamou Playboys.