Most Friday nights, Terrence Simien and the Mallet Playboys are holding down the fort at Slim's Y Ki-Ki in Opelousas in south central Louisiana. Next Friday, however, the young accordionist and singer will bring his infectious brand of zydeco to Friendship Station.
Zydeco is black French country dance music, its name a bastardization of the French "les haricots," or snap beans. Snappy it is -- faster and more rhythmically complex than Cajun music, its white counterpart, though both styles usually feature hot accordion players. Simien and his young band (ranging in age from 16 to 24) are very traditional, rejecting the accommodations to rock and blues that have been made in recent years in some zydeco circles.
"It is going against the grain," says 19-year-old Simien. "I just feel that it's something that needs to be preserved and kept alive." The Playboys' music is a swirl of dance music -- two-steps, waltzes and blues, "and some swing-out numbers, too," Simien adds. As for the emphasis on accordionist-leaders, he points out that "a long time ago, when French music first started off, it was only accordion and maybe a rug board . . ."
Ironically, Simien didn't pick up an accordion until three years ago. His major influences are zydeco legends Clifton Chenmier and Bois Sec Ardoin. He started playing professionally only two years ago, but in that time Simien and the Playboys have become among the most popular purveyors of Zydeco's charms in East Texas and southwest Louisiana.
"We're the youngest active group around these days," Simien says proudly, adding that with his success, a number of his Louisiana peers have now taken up the old-style music as well.