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From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks

From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks

The Cajun Accordion as Identity Symbol

(p.44) 3 From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks
The Accordion in the Americas
Mark F. Dewitt
University of Illinois Press

The diatonic button accordion has been played by musicians the world over, but it has attained a uniquely prominent status in Louisiana Cajun culture. Over the decades, this one particular type of accordion has served as a tabula rasa onto which have been projected changing views of Cajun music and the status of Cajun ethnic identity. This chapter shows how the changing politics of identity in post-civil rights America has enabled Cajuns to turn the accordion's (and their own) “chanky-chank” (low-class) stigma into a powerful symbol of ethnic identity and pride. Cajuns' renewed interest in and valuation of accordion music has also spilled over to a young generation of musicians, including non-Cajun “Yankee chank” accordion players.

Keywords:   Cajun culture, Cajun music, ethnic identity, diatonic button accordion, musical instruments, low class, Louisiana

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