Magnolia has been Rhode Island’s very own taste of Cajun music since their inception in 1989. They’ve performed at festivals from Florida to New York to Boston, won Motif magazine’s Folk Act of the Year in 2013 and have established a hometown following with their monthly Saturday concerts/dance sessions.
“We play at least once a month, and will be at SandyWoods for the first Saturday in April and May,” fiddle player Michelle Kaminsky says. “During the summer and fall, we play more festivals and outside concerts.”
For the uninitiated, Cajun music originated in ballads the Acadians brought to Louisiana in the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, Cajun musicians incorporated accordions into their music, as the instrument had recently become affordable. Two-steps and waltzes composed for accordion and fiddle became commonplace. Many of the most popular accordions were produced in Germany, but when the factories were bombed in World War II, the instruments became rare (and collectible) and the prominence of the accordion in Cajun music faded. Strings became the lead instrument during the ‘30s and ‘40s. In time, though, the accordion was eventually reintroduced, and the result is what we hear today.
Magnolia encourages dancing and will even show you how. “For the dances at SandyWoods there is a brief beginning dance lesson at 7:30pm,” Michelle says. “No partner needed, followed by a couple hours of music. Lots of folks dance and others watch. It’s BYOB and BYOF (food). There are tables set up, and it’s a festive fun evening out.”
If you want more than just the half hour crash course, Michelle hosts a six week Cajun and Zydeco Dance Class Sampler, held each fall in Providence. However, she is also available to give lessons at other places and times. “Cajun and Zydeco music is infectious and really fun to dance to,” she says, adding “Smooth soled shoes really help for dancing.”
Sandywoods Farm itself is a non-profit concert venue. They host music acts that range from local to the international, dance lessons, community drum circles, open mic nights and feature concerts every weekend year-round. They pride themselves at offering these at affordable prices and they accept donations in order to make these events possible.
Spring is the Promised Land waiting at the end of winter and a prelude of the summer to come. After months of snow and cold, it’s finally time to bust out of the stir craze and get the blood pumping. Magnolia and Sandywoods offers up the opportunity to get out and do just that, while supporting a great organization.