An unexpected Japanese artist will play with Cajun band Feufollet and zydeco group Horace Trahan and the Ossun Express this weekend.
Tokyo accordionist Yoshi-take "Yoshi" Nakabayashi will perform Friday during Feufollet's CD release show at Artmosphere and Saturday during Trahan's performance at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles.
"My dream is that he'll come here and be this sort of celebrity and extremely welcomed and take that back to Japan," said Feufollet guitarist Chas Justus. "I want him to be accepted, and I want him to take that excitement back to Tokyo."
This won't be Nakabayashi's first trip to the area, but it will be his first time performing at such large events.
"We want to invite everybody out to see a performance like they've probably never seen before," Trahan said. "How often do you get to see someone from Japan play accordion and zydeco music? Especially right here in Louisiana?"
Nakabayashi, 50, has spent a lot of time immersing himself in Cajun and Creole cultures to better understand the nuances of the music. He even has an accordion made by Iota's legendary instrument maker, Larry Miller.
Nakabayashi has been transfixed by south Louisiana roots music since the age of 25 when he came across a vinyl record of Clifton Chenier.
He first visited Louisiana in 1997 to attend the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He returned to Louisiana in 2003 to attend Lafayette's Festivals Acadiens et Creoles.
That's when he started playing zydeco music.
Nakabayashi's band, Zydeco Kicks, performs regularly in Tokyo, Japan. Although people sing and dance at the band's performances, Nakabayashi wishes zydeco were more popular in his hometown.
He first performed in south Louisiana in 2006 with Chris Ardoin at a trail ride in Branch. He returned in 2012, where he performed with Corey Ledet at Vermilionville and Horace Trahan at Cowboys Night Club.
His most recent visit to Acadiana was in May, when he performed again with Ledet at Joie de Vivre in Breaux Bridge and Trahan at Feed N Seed.
"People enjoyed and danced," Nakabayashi said. "They were surprised. I think it's because I'm singing zydeco in Japanese."
Nakabayashi has received warm welcomes from Louisiana musicians like Justus and Trahan.
"Of course anybody can play this music, but there are nuances," Justus said. "And these guys in particular have definitely done their homework and definitely understand how to play it correctly — if there's a correct way to play. There are different styles, and these guys definitely know that."
Although Justus is meeting Nakabayashi for the first time this week, Trahan has been in touch with Nakabayashi since 2010, when the Japanese musician ordered one of Trahan's CDs.
Nakabayashi often asks for Trahan to write out the English and Cajun French lyrics of popular Louisiana songs so he can translate them into Japanese for his fan base.
"It's amazing to know a Japanese man is playing zydeco music on an accordion all the way in Japan," Trahan said. "Zydeco music originated here in south Louisiana, but anybody can pay it. Anybody can. If it's in your heart to play, anybody on God's green earth can play it."
Nakabayashi said he is most looking forward to this trip to create more "unforgettable memories" during Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, which he hasn't attended since 2003 — the same year he began playing zydeco music.
The one thing Nakabayashi wants everybody in Acadiana to know? "I admire your culture," he said.
See Nakabayashi perform at 9 p.m. Friday during Feufollet's "Prends Courage" CD release show at Artmosphere, 902 Johnston St., or at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the main stage at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles at Girard Park, 500 Girard Park Drive. Learn more about his band at facebook.com/ZydecoKicks.