Ukulele Video Lesson - Jambalaya

This ukulele video lesson will teach you to play Jambalaya on the Bayou by Hank Williams. There are many different versions of the song, spanning a range of different styles. This lesson will focus on the 1952 release of the song by Williams himself.



A Simple & Easy Country Ukulele Video Lesson

Jambalaya is a relatively simple song, which is a great deal of its appeal. The chords G and D7 can be used to perform almost the entire song on a guitar, though a C chord can also be used on the ukulele in place of the G.

The rhythm of the song is a great deal of what pulls it along. It should have a feeling of constantly moving forward, but it is a light, easy feeling, not an energetic feel that should characterize the performance.

The lyrics incorporate a great deal of Cajun words, slight variations on French, which are not always sung entirely correctly. Some of this is simply to allow the words to match up with the meter of the rest of the song correctly, and is style, rather than language.

There are also quite a few Creole inspired pronunciations of English words in the song, and it’s important to get them right if you intend on doing the singing part. For the most part, the instrumental accompaniment is really quite easy and this is a good song for a beginner to practice on. It teaches basic rhythm and, if your interests extend into country music, Hank Williams is one of the most significant artists in that genre and it’s well worth it to study his recordings.

Song History

Jambalaya is based on an actual Cajun folk song, titled Grand Texas. There is some controversy as to who actually wrote the song, but the controversy is over whether or not there was another writer involved in writing the song, not whether or not Hank Williams did write the song at all.

The song’s subject matter is rather light. The singer is going down to meet with his girlfriend Yvonne and her family. The lyrics describe the singer using a type of canoe to get down to see Yvonne, drinking liquor out of fruit jars with her family, playing music and enjoying Cajun food, including gumbo, crawfish and, of course, jambalaya.

Jambalaya on the Bayou has been recorded by numerous artists since it was released. They range from Emmylou Harris to Andy Kaufman to Van Morrison to The Residents. Each artist has introduced their own elements into the song. The original Hank Williams recording, based on a folk song as it is, is very easily learned and developed on in terms of style and execution.

The song was a hit when Williams recorded it and became a hit for other artists, as well. The Carpenters recorded the song in the 1970s and managed to make it a hit. Some of the other artists who have recorded the song may not have gotten hits out of it, but have helped to make the song itself more popular through their performances.

Interestingly, because this does come from a folk song, Jambalaya on the Bayou has had influences that actually go back to its roots, as well. Cajuns have taken the Hank Williams version, rerecorded it with Cajun lyrics and adopted it back into their own culture. This makes the song really quite interesting in that it both brought Cajun music elements into the mainstream and, after becoming a mainstream fixture, ended up being reintroduced into Cajun music and becoming a fixture of the culture again.

One final difference between actual Cajun language and the Hank Williams recording is that Bayou is actually pronounced “by you”, not “by-o”.

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