For nearly 30 years, GRAMMY award winning artist Terrance Simien, 8th generation Louisiana Creole has been shattering the myths about what his indigenous Zydeco roots music is and is not. Leading his Zydeco Experience band,
Simien has become one of the most respected and accomplished artists in
American roots music today. He and his band mates have performed over
7000 concerts, toured millions of miles to over 45 countries during
their eventful career.
2012 marked their 27th consecutive New Orleans Jazz Festival
performance: an event that has become the gold standard for showcasing
and celebrating all Louisiana music traditions. 2012 also found Simien
& his band mate seen performing their original song “Dance Everyday”
in the Warner Brothers film “The Lucky One” starring Zac Efron and Blythe Danner, and directed by Oscar nominated director Scott Hicks. Simien’s version of zydeco standard “Uncle Bud” was also used in the film.
2009 marked the release of Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”, set in the city of New Orleans and featured their first black princess. “Gonna Take You There”,
a zydeco flavored song penned by Randy Newman and inspired by Simien’s
music featured him as a guest musician became one of favorite songs from
the film that made history for his genre! It was the first time Disney featured zydeco music in a film, but what really changed the game was when the word zydeco was actually spoken in the movie!
In 2005 Simien led HBO producers
deep into Creole country for another high visible opportunity for the
genre and he introduced them to the prodigious 5 year old zydeco talent,
Guyland Leday. This gifted young musician was featured in the HBO doc “The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. This was a huge victory for his state, genre and Creole culture. It was also this yea r that they became the first zydeco artists to perform in Cuba for the US State Department. In 2006, Carnegie Hall presented them in Mali, West Africa as part of their unique Global Encounters program.
However, it was 2008 that
proved to be one of the most memorable years of their eventful career
as they were honored with a GRAMMY™ award, the first in zydeco since
Rockin Sidney Simien received his in 1985. They also performed that day
at The 50th GRAMMY™ Awards pre-Tel ceremony.
Simien was born
in 1965 (appropriately) into the hippie folk and soul music era that
still intrigues him today. He grew artistically being influenced and
inspired by all of the music from that period. He was as influenced by
Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel as he was by Sam Cooke and the Commodores.
Since his family is documented in history books as one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish,
his musical roots are firmly planted alongside the great zydeco
pioneers like Chenier, Delafose, Chavis, Ardoin and that other Simien,
Rockin Sidney, to name a few. He counts himself one of the fortunate few
who hail from a generation with a direct link to these artists, some of
whom mentored him as an emerging talent. He has assumed that same role
to a new generation of young Zydeco hotshots because he understands how
critical mentoring is to the success of his indigenous music that has become synonymous with the cultural identity of Louisiana and an important part of the musical landscape of this country.
at the young age of 18, Simien began touring professionally and by 20
he was sharing the stage with Fats Domino and Sarah Vaughn at the Bern
Jazz Festival. His career exploded after that and Terrance remains a pivotal part of Zydeco music history.
In the early 1980's there were only 2 emerging bands touring
nationally; the young Terrance and The Sam Brothers were the only
artists reaching a younger audience with their indigenous roots music.
Simien was also vital to the “renaissance” of a genre that was becoming
extinct with the passing of each pioneer starting with Clifton Chenier
in 1987. By the end of the 1990’s, all of the other influential pioneers
had departed. This placed Terrance at the forefront of an exciting
period of growth and popularity for his genre.
Simien is blessed with an extraordinary talent that expresses the deepest human emotions through the original instrument: The Voice.
He takes his audiences on a multicultural tour of the world as the many
countries he’s visited while on tour have informed his musical
language. He creates a hypnotic blend of New Orleans
funk-reggae-flavored-world-blues-American zydeco roots music that
beckons you to your feet and into the groove. He has found a seamless
and artful way to deliver his eclectic music as a relevant, evolving
artist who is clearly rooted in Creole tradition. Well known for his
legendary live performances, Simien also helped change the vocabulary
for his genre by introducing complex vocal harmonies, diverse repertoire
and carefully crafted high quality recordings.
Terrance and his loyal and skilled band mates, together have shared studio & stage with Robert Palmer, Stevie Wonder, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, the Meters, Alan Toussaint, Paul Simon and Dave Matthews Band to name a few. Their music has been featured in TV commercials and a dozen or more films, including the blockbuster “The Big Easy”
which changed the game for Louisiana music in the late 80’s. His music
has been heard on NPR syndicated radio shows like World Café, American
Routes, E-town & House of Blues Radio Hour. Rolling Stone,
Billboard, and other notable music industry publications, as well as
major daily newspapers have praised his recordings. His extensive discography
dates back to vinyl 45’s. In 1991 he was signed to rock label Restless
Records by A&R rep Ron Goudie who brought the band Poison to the
same label group.
Simien’s groundbreaking Creole for Kidz & The History of Zydeco
for student, youth and family audiences has reached nearly 500,000
since its debut in 2000. This dynamic program is presented at performing
art centers, schools and festivals. Simien is helping build a more culturally literate
young performing arts patron who is more knowledgeable about zydeco
roots music because of his program. Simien has received countless
awards, grants and recognition for his work and artistic contributions
as a respected Cultural Ambassador for his state and country.
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