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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wild Tchoupitoulas - Meet De Boys On De Battlefront (Mardi Gras Indian song examples, information, & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

(Revised March 19, 2017)

This pancocojams post showcases two YouTube examples and lyrics for the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian song "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" as recorded by the Wild Tchoupitoulas.

General comments about Mardi Gras Indians and selected comments from the discussion threads for these showcases videos are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers & performers of this song, and thanks to Mardi Gras Indians for their cultural legacy. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/03/bo-dollis-wild-magnolias-meet-de-boys.html for another pancocojams post about this song.

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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MARDI GRAS INDIANS
From http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/mardigrasindians.html
"Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secrecy as any other carnival organization. Their parade dates, times and routes are never published in advance, although they do tend to gather in the same areas every year.

The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans's inner city. While these Indians have paraded for well over a century, their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition....

Few in the ghetto felt they could ever participate in the typical New Orleans parade. Historically, slavery and racism were at the root of this cultural separation. The black neighborhoods in New Orleans gradually developed their own style of celebrating Mardi Gras. Their krewes are named for imaginary Indian tribes according to the streets of their ward or gang....

Today when two Mardi Gras Indian tribes pass one another, you will see a living theater of art and culture. Each tribe's style and dress is on display in a friendly but competitive manner. They compare one another's art and craftsmanship.

The Big Chiefs of two different tribes start with a song/chant, ceremonial dance, and threatening challenge to "Humba". The Big Chief's demand that the other Chief bows and pays respect. The retort is a whoop and equally impressive song and war dance with the reply, "Me no Humba, YOU Humba!"

"You know when you've won, you see it in their eyes." - Larry Bannock

Although there was a history of violence, many now choose to keep this celebration friendly. Each Big Chief will eventually stand back and, with a theatrical display of self-confidence, acknowledge the artistry and craftsmanship of the other chief's suit.

Before the progression can continue, the two Big Chiefs will often comment privately to one another, "Looking good, baby, looking good!"...

The good news is Mardi Gras day is no longer a day to "settle scores" among the Mardi Gras Indians. Now that the tradition and practice for the Indians to compare their tribal song, dance and dress with other tribes as they meet that day, violence is a thing of the past. The Mardi Gras Indian has invested thousands of hours and dollars in the creation of his suit, and will not run the risk of ruining it in a fight. This tradition, rich with folk art and history, is now appreciated by museums and historical societies around the world. It is a remarkable and welcome change from the past."...

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From Google book excerpt: "Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture" by George Lipsitz
p. 245
..."Language, costumes, and music combine to shape the fused art of the Mardi Gras Indian pageantry, but it is largely through dancing that each of these separate forms become part of a larger totality. Indians who chant “two way pockaway” (“get out of the way”) will dance differently from those chanting “handa wanda” (“we’re not looking for trouble”). Dancing offers an opportunity to display the beauty of one’s costume; conversely, costume design anticipates the movement of street dancing. Musical selections not only have their own lyrics, melodies, and rhythms, but they also have specific dance steps that accentuate their other meanings.

In recent years, dancing has taken one even greater importance among Mardi Gras Indians as a symbolic form of combat. At one time the tribes carried real hatchets and spears and used the aggressive festivity of carnival as a cover for gang warfare. After a day of drinking and marching they would meet to settle grudges and rivalries on the “battlefield”-an empty lot at the intersection of Claiborne and Poydras streets. But when urban renewal destroyed the basis for neighborhood competitions, and when police vigilance

p. 246
made violent acts on carnival day more difficult, a new spirit began to emerge. Aesthetic rivalries took the place of street fighting, and dancing became a key way of demonstrating one’s superiority over others. When Indians challenge each other in the streets, they draw an imaginary line between them and compete by dancing as close as possible without crossing. Their dance enacts a mock fight replete with attacks on territory and each other’s bodies. The dancers capable of giving the appearance of fighting without resorting to actual combat win the highest esteem from their tribe and from spectators.

The transformation of actual violence into symbolic aesthetic competition has many precedents and parallels in Afro-American communities all across the nation, but it has a special history in New Orleans."..

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OVERVIEW OF THE SONG "MEET DE BOYS ON THE BATTLEFRONT"
The song "Meet De Boys On The Battlefront" has become one of the signature songs that is associated with New Orleans, Louisiana Mardi Gras Indians. Here's information about the 1976 album in which this song was first featured:
ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Tchoupitoulas_(album)
"The Wild Tchoupitoulas is a 1976 album by the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian "tribe" The Wild Tchoupitoulas.

The album features "call-and-response" style chants typical of Mardi Gras Indians. Vocals were provided by George Landry, as "Big Chief Jolly", as well as other members of his Mardi Gras tribe. Instrumentation was provided in part by members of the New Orleans band The Meters. The album also notably features Landry's nephews, the Neville Brothers, providing harmonies and some of the instrumentation. While not a commercial success, the effort was well received critically and the experience recording it encouraged the four Neville brothers to perform together for the first time as a group.[4][5][6] In 2012 the album was added to the U.S. Library of Congress' National Registry, a designation of "cultural, artistic and historic importance to the nation’s aural legacy."[1]
-snip-
Here's another quote about that album from the summary statement of a video for another song that is included in that album http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkLmx2Gxpcg "Wild Tchoupitoulas - Big Chief Got A Golden Crown"
"One of my all time favorite albums, the Wild Tchoupitoulas was founded by George Landry aka Big Chief Jolly. Released in 1976, it was also the start of the formation of Landry's nephews, the Neville Brothers, Art, Charles, Aaron & Cyril, respectively. The instrumentation was provided mainly by the Meters, Art & Cyril Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jr., & Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. The album was also produced in large part by Allen Toussaint. This is an essential part of the rich musical New Orleans heritage, and I ask if you enjoy this music, pick up the album & pass the word to keep this joyful music alive."

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VIDEO EXAMPLES WITH LYRICS
These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting dates with the oldest dated examples given first.

Example #1: Wild Tchoupitoulas - Meet De Boys On De Battlefront



Jared Lorio, Uploaded on Jan 30, 2010
-snip-
"Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" is a song that is included in the album Wild Tchoupitoulas.

LYRICS: MEET DE BOYS ON DE BATTLEFRONT
(as sung by The Wild Tchopatoulas & Neville Brothers, 1976 recording)

Chorus
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Well, The Wild Tchopatoulas gonna stomp some rump!

(repeat)
Well the greatest thing that I ever see
Is the Mardi Gras Indian down in New Orleans
Well he sewed all night and he sewed all day
On Mardi Gras morning went all the way

Chorus

Injuns comin from all over town
Big Chief singin, gonna take them down
Jakimo fino a la kay*
Injuns are rulers on the holiday.

Chorus

Mardi gras comin' and it won't be long,
Gonna play Indian, gonna carry on.
Maskers runnin up and down the avenue.
Here come the Indians, let ‘em through!

Chorus

I'm a Wild Tchopatoulas from the 13th ward,
A blood shiffa-hoona and I won’t be barred
I walked through fire and I swam through mud
Snatched a feather from an eagle, drank panther blood!

Chorus

Now de iddy bitty spy gotta heart of steel
Shank won’t get you then his hatchet will
Quende may hacko may hoona no **
He shoot de gun in de jailhouse door!

Chorus

I bring my gang all over town
Drink fire water till the sun goes down.
Get back home we’re gonna kneel and pray
We had some fun on a holiday.

Chorus
(repeat several times)
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the recording. Additions and corrections are welcome.

*This phrase is usually given as "jockomo fi na nay"

** The ed of this phrase is usually given as "Hoo nah nay".
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Example #2: Wild Tchoupitoulas - The Wild Tchopatoulas, The Nevile Brothers, and Deacon John*



Steven Sacrob , Uploaded on Jan 21, 2012

Stomp some romp
-snip-
*The singers & musicians were identified at 1:26 in this video.

Here are the lyrics for this rendition from the sub-titles given in the video.
Chorus
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Meet de boys on de Battlefront.
Yeah, the Wild Tchopatoulas gonna stomp some rump!

(repeat)

Mardi gras comin' and it won't be long,
Gonna play Indian, gonna carry on.
Maskers runnin up and down the avenue.
Here come the Indians, let ‘em through!

Chorus

(Repeat verse given above)

Chorus

I'm a Wild Tchopatoulas from the 13th ward,
A blood shiffa-hoona and I won’t be barred
I walked through fire and I swam through mud
Snatched a feather from an eagle, drank panther blood

Chorus

Now de iddy bitty spy gotta heart of steel
Shank won’t get you then his hatchet will
Quende may hacko may hoona no
He shoot de gun in de jailhouse door!

Chorus

I bring my gang all over town
Drink fire water till the sun goes down.
Get back home we’re gonna kneel and pray
We had some fun on a holiday.

Chorus
(repeat several times)
-snip-
Here are three comments from this video's viewer comment thread http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=498LZARXzN0

ChynaRider, 2011
"This is the Neville Brothers pretty early on. They recorded this song, "Meet De Boys On The Battlefront", as 'The Wild Tchoupitoulas'. This particular video, or parts from it, was used in a PBS special on music and culture. David Carradine narrated. This is a great old Mardi Gras song and they have pretty much the definitive version. Great video document here."

**
Steven Sacrob, 2011
"This particular clip is from a documentary film called "Always for Pleasure"

**
Bradley Horowitz, 2013
"I learned on the way into work today that filmmaker and Berkeley resident Les Blank died yesterday. From Wikipedia:

"Most of his films focused on American traditional music forms, including (among others) blues, Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, Tex-Mex, polka, tamburitza, and Hawaiian musics. Many of these films represent the only filmed documents of musicians who are now deceased."

My favorite was a 1978 film called Always For Pleasure, which documented the phenomenon of the "Mardi Gras Indians", and in particular the Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe.

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THE MEANING OF CERTAIN WORDS AND PHRASES IN THE SONG
This text analysis provides information and my opinions about the meanings of certain words and phrases that are found in The Wild Tchopatoulas/The Neville Brothers version of "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" (both lyrics given above). Additions and corrections are welcome.

Battlefront - the neighborhood streets on which the Mardi Gras Indians parade
**
Big Chief Jolly - George Landry aka "Big Chief Jolly", the Neville Brother's uncle, was the founder and big chief of the Mardi Gras Indian group The Wild Tchapatoulas. Big Chief Jolly is the lead singer in the "Meet De Boys On De Battlefield" video that is given above as Example #2.
**
(a) blood shiffa-hoona - probably means a Mardi Gras Indian by blood
**
maskers - members of Mardi Gras Nations who masquerade as Indians during Mardi Gras and at other times such as "Super Sunday" (usually around March 19th every year) (same as "gonna play Indian")
**
fire water - drinking alcohol
**
iddy bitty spy - little (in stature) spy boy (a position in the Mardi Gras Indian hierarchy whose task was to scout and report the positions of other Mardi Gras Indian groups.)
**
(The) prettiest - the persons who are considered to have the best outfits
**
stomp some romp - get into physical battles (beat up on people's butts), as physical fighting is no longer a part of the meetings between two Mardi Gras Indian nations, "stomp some romp" can be said to mean "excel in the battle" between which Mardi Gras Indian nation's outfits looks the best.
**
(the) the 13th ward - a neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana
**
"went all the way"; won't be barred - the Mardi Gras Indian won't be blocked from traveling down the street (by Indians from other "nations").

**
"jacimo fin a la kay", "Quende may hacko may hoona no" - are examples of the made up but fairly fixed Mardi Gras Indian language. The meanings of these words & sayings and other "Mardi Gras Indian words and phrases such as "iko iko", "tu way pocka way", "oona nay" and "jacamo finane" are widely debated.
-snip-
The lines "I walked through fire and I swam through mud/Snatched a feather from an eagle, drank panther blood!" are examples of the self braggadocio, exaggerated "lies" ("tall tales", "stories") that Southern African Americans told which are the focus of books such as Zora Neale Hurston's 1930s book Mules And Men.

Also, the reason why the maskers kneel and pray when they came home after being on the battlefront because they survived that day's encounters with rival Indians.

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