Photographer John Noltner captures the essence of Northern California's zydeco culture in this audio slideshow. (Audio by Richard Ziglar.) You'll travel to venues spread across the Bay Area and meet the musicians who keep the Creole culture and its signature rhythms alive.
You can also listen to a Prime Time Radio special hour-long broadcast, produced by Barry Yeoman and Richard Ziglar, which traces the journey of zydeco music from its birthplace in the bayous of Louisiana to this lively outpost on the West Coast.
A published author as well as a photographer, Noltner is based in Minnesota. “I joined Barry and Richard on this project after they had done all of the research and developed all of the contacts for it," he says. "In fact, I went in feeling a little blind. I am accustomed to learning about new subjects quickly and navigating my way through a visual story with very little background, but it is always accompanied by a sense of unease. In this case the discomfort faded quickly.
“Having flown in from the Midwest earlier in the day, our first stop was the No Name Ranch in the hills overlooking the Bay Area. What I found was a gathering of warm and friendly people who loved zydeco music and who were quite willing to share their time, their food and their stories.
“Later, I photographed Andrew Carriere as he played with his band at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. As the crowd in this historic club spun around the dance floor, the band worked hard to fill the room with energy and sound. I was drawn to Andrew’s enormous arms. This 74-year-old man didn’t so much squeeze the accordion, as he threatened to crush it.”