Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Bayou Teche" - Columbus Fruge

Columbus Fruge recorded with his accordion for RCA Victor in 1929.   There, he recorded a song as an ode to the the Bayou Teche.  It's an old river that runs alongside the swamps of the Atchafalaya and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. "Bayou Teche" (#222184) talks about misery of a lover asking his love interest to leave her parents, settle along the bayou and make a home.   Many Acadians eventually found their home along the bayou and made a way of life farming it's fertile banks. 

Si t'aurais volu m'écouter, chèrie, 

Toi tu s'rais, c'est là-bas, au Bayou Teche avec ton neg, cherie.

T'as écouté ton papa et ta maman, chère, 

Les embarase de ton papa et ta maman, chère.

C'est la cause, ye yaille, que t’es pas avec ton neg, 
Aujourd'hui, ye yaille.

Moi j'connais tu vas pleurer, t'lamenter, ye yaille,
Pour les miseres toi t'as après faire avec ton vieux neg, chere.

J'su parti m'en aller pour te quitter toi tout seule 
Dans les chemins a la traine avec ta valise, ye yaille.
Battle of Bayou Teche

The Acadian people first settled along this stream when transported to Louisiana, navigating it in light boats called pirogues.  But the name is still shrouded in mystery.  Bayou Teche is described by Raymond Francois as a "long, sluggish meandering stream" whose name comes from a Choctaw Indian word meaning "big snake." However, Teche river historian Shane Bernard believes this myth is outdated, claiming the local Indian tribes had other words for 'snake'.  Since the early 18th century the word had taken root and changed spellings across maps of both the French and the Spanish.   In his book about the bayou, he states:

Noting the similarity of Techas (and its alternate spellings) to Teche (and its alternate spellings), I propose that Spanish explorers named Bayou Teche for the Mexican province of Texas. . . . [It] does not seem far-fetched to imagine the Spanish naming a major Louisiana bayou the Techas (Texas), which in time morphed into Teche. . . . [but] Barring discovery of a “smoking-gun” document, we may never know the actual origin of the word Teche.2
In Fruge's song, he uses the phrase "ye yaille".  "Yaille" is a word that doesn't translate well or at all.  It's possible origin is from the Spanish phrase "ah ya yaille" loosely meaning "Oh! Wow!"  Sometimes it comes out as an exuberant yell.  Other times, it conveyed a mixture of surprise, reproach, and resignation.

If you would have listened to me, dear, 

You are going over there, to the Bayou Teche with your old man, dear.

You heard your dad and your mom, dear,

The kisses of your dad and your mom, dear.

It's the reason, ye yaille, which you're not with your old man, 
Today, ye yaille,

I knew you were going to cry, you mourned, ye yaille,
For how miserable you are with your old man, dear.

I'm leaving to go to leave you all alone,
Along the road in the trails with your suitcase, ye yaille.

In the early part of the 18th century, Spain considered everything west of the Mississippi River to be Texas, including much of present-day southwest Louisiana.  It seems that many of the locals used the word 'Teche' as a marker for where Spanish lands were claimed.  However, the name lost it's meaning and by the 20th century, it had become a historic waterway for many of the Cajuns living along it's banks.   

  1. Ye Yaille Chere, Traditional Cajun Dance Music by Raymond E. François
  2. Teche: A History of Louisiana's Most Famous Bayou
  3. Lyrics by Raymond F and Jordy A
Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 1: First Recordings - The 1920's (Old Timey, 1970)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

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