Documentarian Robert Mugge’s recently re-issued presentation The Kingdom of Zydeco is an intriguing glance into the realm of the genre which is noted in its title. The roughly hour-plus documentary is a stark contrast to his more recent zydeco documentary Zydeco Crossroads. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact its story, in comparison to that of Zydeco Crossroads proves itself to be its own hugely important part of the program’s whole. Its central story (so to speak) is just one of its key elements. The archived performance footage that is used to tell the program’s story is another important element that should be noted. The program’s bonus material rounds out its presentation, connecting everything together. More specifically one of the bonuses in particular ties everything together. That is not to discount the other material included as bonuses. It is just that the one item in particular ties itself to the program’s central story and its footage more so than the other featured bonuses. That aside, the combination of the bonus material, the program’s central story, and its featured performances, makes this presentation in whole one that–together with Zydeco Crossroads—a whole that music lovers and fans of zydeco alike should experience at least once.
MVD Visual’s recently re-issued presentation of The Kingdom of Zydeco is a presentation that, together with Zydeco Crossroads, should be experienced at least once by both music lovers and zydeco fans alike. The main reason for this is the story at the heart of the roughly hour-plus program. In comparison to the story at the heart of its counterpart the story at the center of The Kingdom of Zydeco isn’t really a story in the purest sense. What it really is, is a glance into the genre that is zydeco. At the heart of it all is a competition between the “old guard” and the “new guard.” The “old guard” is represented by Boozoo Chavis. The “new guard” is represented by Beau Jocque. Viewers get to see in their musical battle two totally different styles of zydeco music—the pure, old school (Chavis) and the newer, more heterogeneous style (Jocque). The difference in the two styles is quite clear when one pays close attention to both. To that end, it could be said that Mugge (MUG-EE) presenting both sides (and in turn both styles) of the “battle” serves as a good starting point in discussions on the roots of zydeco music and its evolution over time. There are also interviews with both men that are included with the presentation. Hearing the passion in Chavis’ voice about the music juxtaposed by Jocque’s more laid back persona makes for even more discussion believe it not. That is because that contrast could generate just as much discussion among audiences about the mindset of the performers then and now. One could ask do today’s zydeco players have the fire that Chavis clearly had or could they be more laid back yet still have that passion? Regardless, seeing the love that those in the “Kingdom of Zydeco” have for the music and its performers, viewers will see that “new school” or “old school,” zydeco is the musical lifeblood of so many. Understanding this, audiences will gain a certain appreciation for the “story” at the center of The Kingdom of Zydeco. It shows that while not necessarily a conventional story, it is one that serves as a good starting point on any lesson(s) about the genre and its rich history. It is just one part of what makes this documentary worth the watch. The noted performances by Chavis and Jocque are just as important to the program as its “story.”
The non-traditional story that lies at the center of The Kingdom of Zydeco is in itself an important part of this recently re-issued documentary. That is because while non-traditional, it does serve as a good starting point for any lesson(s) on zydeco music and its rich history. For all of the importance that it presents it is just one part of what makes this program worth experiencing. The performances that are presented within the program are just as important to the program as the program’s central “story.” The performances are of central figures Boozoo Chavis and Beau Jocque. It has been noted already but is worth noting again that between the pair there are clearly noticeable differences in their styles. Chavis’ sound is decidedly pure in its instrumentation and arrangement. While Chavis’ band does include guitar and bass, the band’s musical arrangements do not make them the key instruments. Rather they are centered more on the accordion and washboard. In the same vein, the arrangements in question much purer than those of the more modern zydeco sound. The funk and rock elements that are so prevalent in today’s zydeco are nowhere to be found in the older music made so famous by Chavis and his counterparts. Instead it is more of the creole-rooted sound. Jocque’s sound on the other hand exhibits more of those funk and rock (I.E. more modern) influences. It tends to make the guitars and drums more the stars of the music than the accordion and washboard. Regardless of audiences’ thoughts on both styles the presentation of both styles adds even more to that introduction of zydeco’s history. It deepens even more the discussion on the changes through which the genre has gone over the time since its formation. Not only that, but the performances themselves can be considered important because of their archival value. They are pieces of musical history that had otherwise laid unseen for decades. If not for the footage, those discussions on zydeco’s evolution might not have even happened. Keeping this in mind, the performances that are featured over the course of this program prove to be indeed important in their own right to the overall presentation of The Kingdom of Zydeco. Even with their importance in mind, they still are not the last of the program’s most notable elements. The material that has been included in the recording as bonus material is just as important to the program as the program’s “story” and its featured performances.
Both the “story” at the center of Kingdom of Zydeco and its featured performances are important in their own right to the program’s overall presentation. That is because of the historical value that they present. While both elements are undeniably important to the documentary, they are not its only important elements. The material that has been included this time as bonus material is just important to the program as its story and performances. The “Introduction To The Kingdom with Robert Mugge” is the most important of the program’s bonuses. It only runs ten minutes. But in the course of that time viewers are presented with quite a bit of important information about the program. Viewers learn how the competition between Jocque and Chavis ended up at a masonic temple (hint: the suggestion came from the performers). Viewers also learn that the very creation of this program stemmed from other documentaries that Mugge had worked on. The documentaries in question centered on Alligator Records and another label. And just as notable is Mugge’s own discussion on what held up the original release of Kingdom of Zydeco. That discussion is truly interesting. These are just a few of the topics covered over the course of the program’s bonus “Introduction.” There is far more for audiences to take in over the short course of its ten-minute run time. The very amount of information, and clarity in its delivery over that time makes this feature the most important of the program’s bonuses. “Iguanas in the House” is another of the program’s bonus features. It presents a full performance by a zydeco group called The Iguanas spliced with interviews with the band’s members. The band’s members discuss how they came to join the band, their love for zydeco and more in their interviews. It runs twenty-seven minutes. And just as with the program’s bonus “introduction” it will keep viewers just as entertained and engaged. “A Royal Title” is the last of the program’s bonus features. This short three-minute segment focuses on the late great Boozoo Chavis and features an interview with Chavis that was lifted from the program’s main feature. It’s short. But it exhibits Chavis’ deep love and respect for zydeco and will in turn have audiences once again discussing who is the real king of zydeco. No matter one’s opinion on this topic, viewers will all agree that its inclusion in the program, that of the program’s “introduction,” and bonus performance by The Iguanas all come together to prove once and for all why this program’s bonus material is so important to its overall presentation. And the bonus material, together with the program’s central “story” and performances joins together to make the program in whole one that—together with Zydeco Crossroads—every music lover and zydeco fan alike should experience. It proves just as much to be in whole one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.
The Kingdom of Zydeco is one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues. It is also a program that should be experienced at least once by music lovers and fans of zydeco at least once. That is especially the case when it is put alongside Mugge’s latest documentary Zydeco Crossroads. This is thanks in part to the history presented in its central “story” of sorts and the performances that come along with that story. The material that is included with the program as bonus material adds its own amount of interest to the program. Each element is important to the program in its own right. Altogether they make the Kingdom of Zydeco a program that is just as valuable in the classroom as the living room. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct via MVD Visual’s online store at http://mvdb2b.com/s/TheKingdomOfZydeco/MVD7500D. More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:
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