There are very few festivals that I look forward to each year that combine two of my favorite things to do; eat and dance. Since my introduction to Grammy®-nominated artist Andre Thierry and his music last year, I have quickly become an enthusiast for learning more about the rich history and culture of Creoles around the world as well as the eclectic sounds of zydeco.
“It is just starting to have a snowball effect. People love the music,” says the talented artist of very few words. Born and raised in Richmond, Calif., Thierry grew up surrounded by musicians who would travel from the South to perform at his grandparents’ events often held at St. Marks Catholic Church. It wasn’t until he was a young adult that he started to embrace his Creole and artistic roots by starting his own band at the age of 12 and going on to become one of the most prolific accordion players in the industry. His artistic style crosses many genres in addition to zydeco to include blues, R & B and rock.
Bringing Creole Culture to the Musical Stage
With a vision to unite as well as introduce more people to the Creole culture that is not just rooted in the southern state of Louisiana, Thierry created the Creole United Festival two years ago as a cultural reunion that is also a musical celebration and most importantly, a culinary retreat.
The festival will once again take place in the beautiful city of Sausalito at Dunphy Park which is just a short drive outside of San Francisco on Saturday, October 17. From 11 am – 6 pm, it is one of the biggest Creole celebration gatherings in California with attendance expected to peak over the 3000 record set last year.
“I get people who were introduced to it [zydeco music] years ago and now they are saying how it has evolved through me. They have a picture of what they were used to when they first learned about it and now seeing where I’ve taken it, they appreciate it,” says Thierry.
As a musical mentor, Thierry is known to introduce breakout artists with two making their first California debuts at the festival. Joining this year’s lineup will be international zydeco artist Yoshi-Take Nakabayashi all the way from Japan and Nathan Plumbar from Louisiana. Mixing things up a little will be K.I. Nicholas of World Music whose music has moved through reggae, soca, Caribbean and African jazz among other musical genres.
The music on the stage won’t be the only thing keeping the party going at the festival. The culinary lineup for this year will transport your taste buds to the South with local and out of state vendors cooking up classic dishes that have become the staples of Creole cuisine. Chef Joe Durio of Heart Healthy Cuisine will make his California culinary debut with offerings to include seafood gumbo and smothered okra.
Other vendors to look out for include the Oyster Guy, Smokin Pig BBQ, Mz. Pearls Louisiana Bread Pudding, Seymart Seafood & Chicken, Big Jim BBQ, Swamp Restaurant SF, Caribbean Spice and Sunshine Southern Desserts. Tony Chachere will return once again to serve its jambalaya, smoked brisket and turkey in the reserved area for guests purchasing a seat or table. General lawn seating is free.
In addition to being an ambassador for the Creole culture around the country and soon the world, Thierry always takes the time to inspire the next generation. The Creole United Festival is not just about food and music but also helping children discover their talents as well. Once again, donations will be accepted for the Zydeco for Kids music program that was established in 2012 at the Performing Stars in Marin City, Calif. The fun and interactive program introduces kids to a mix of African, Native American Blues, French dance melodies and elements of Afro-Caribbean music using instruments such as vest scrub boards, drums and the accordion.
For more information about Thierry and upcoming performances, go to www.andrethierry.com. To learn more about the festival, visit www.creoleunitedfestival.com. You can also follow Thierry on Facebook.