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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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All hail Queen Ida! Clap your hands! Rotate your hips. Be happy. Be real happy.

I only saw Queen Ida once, but that was enough. No, not enough. But it was the only chance I had. This was at Holstein's, the music saloon on North Halsted St. in Chicago, just down the street from Somebody Else's Troubles and run by brothers Fred and Ed Holstein, who were at the heart of the city's golden age of folk.

Holstein's wasn't a huge room, but it was packed. The pay must not have been great, but the Queen played like a million bucks. Her first language is French. She was the first woman to lead a zydeco band--zydeco, the music of the bayou.

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There is such joy in her performance. I've been posting some pieces about New Orleans by my good friend Ellie Cooney. I mentioned Queen Ida. Many were the times, Ellie said, when "she danced me into a puddle of sweat."

N.B.: In my quest spanning the years, I find that the best albums to play loud while exercising are Queen Ida's and good Soca. That's because most of the time you can't quite understand the French, cajun and some English, mixed in a gumbo. Instrumental music can seem seem too insistent on the treadmill. A vocal gives you company, but spares you from following the words.

Opens with an interview with the Queen:

Cick here on the queen Ida Listening Page.

Here is her Wikipedia entry. The Queen is still with us at 83.

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