THE KINDOM OF ZYDECO looks at the black Creole music scene of Southwest Louisiana and at attempts, in the mid-1990s, to name a new "king of zydeco."
The music's original self-proclaimed "king" was the great Clifton Chenier who did more than anyone to develop zydeco's musical form and to promote it around the world. After Chenier's death, his good friend and former "crown prince" of zydeco Rockin' Dopsie was crowned king by the mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana under somewhat controversial circumstances. Then, with Dopsie's death, a new struggle ensued to crown either veteran accordion player Boozoo Chavis (another of zydeco's founding fathers) or the younger Beau Jocque (at the time, Southwest Louisiana's most popular musical artist). The core of the film is a joint concert appearance by Boozoo Chavis and Beau Jocque, which was billed as the event that would determine zydeco's future king, along with efforts by the Louisiana Hall of Fame to crown Boozoo Chavis in accordance with the reputed final wishes of Rockin' Dopsie. Also shown performing in the film are respected bandleader John Delafose and the talented younger artist Nathan Williams of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas. But the film is as much about storytelling as it is about performance, and the tall tales come not only from musicians but also from competing nightclub owners Kerman Richard and Sid Williams (older brother of Nathan), from zydeco deejay Lester Thibeaux, from zydeco record store owner Irene Hebert (sister of Lester), from Zydeco Association heads Wilbert Guillory and Paul Scott, and from Louisiana Hall of Fame founder Lou Gabus. Appropriately enough, the film's climax documents the actual crowning of a new zydeco king, though that crowning, too, was immediately contested, and Mr. Delafose, Mr. Jocque, and Mr. Chavis all passed away much too soon afterwards. In the end, we are left with a stunning record of the talented musicians and colorful characters who made up zydeco's true Golden Era.