Translate

Sunday, March 23, 2014

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

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents two YouTube examples, lyrics, and my opinion about the meaning of certain words & phrases of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian song "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront".

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.

****
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MARDI GRAS INDIANS
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras_Indians
"Mardi Gras Indians are African-American Carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.

Collectively, their organizations are called "tribes" , Mardi Gras Indian tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph's Day on March 19th ("Super Sunday") and sometimes also at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. The tribes are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Indians and the Downtown Indians".

****
From http://www.mardigrasdigest.com/Sec_mgind/history.htm "A Short History Of Mardi Gras Indians" by Willie W. Clark Jr. (11-16-1999)
"The Black Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans are a unique sub-culture of a highly diverse and complex group of the local population . The tradition of these masking Indians, dates back to the 1700's. The scholars that claim to know the origins of the Mardi Gras Indians (a two hundred year old tradition) sometimes conflict on the precise history. As a result of this lack of a solid path in the knowledge of Indian history, many theories abound, but this much is for certain, the Indians have preserved some of their culture and history in the guise of tradition, and that tradition at the time of Mardi Gras, is now an integral part of New Orleans. In the heart of New Orleans since the 1780's and perhaps earlier, this ancient colorful and artistic culture has been practiced. A culture, that be it known, exhibits all of that tradition, with some of the positive heritage, and is quite a unique history."...

****
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 are 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-
It should be noted that "Meet De Boys On De BattleFront" isn't a call & response song. Like many other Mardi Gras Indian songs "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" is composed of four line rhyming verses which are separated by fixed chorus. While "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" was probably composed around the late 1970s after the formation of the Wild Tchapatoulas nation (the Mardi Gras Indian group that is lauded in the song), it's likely that some lines from that song are much older. It seems to me that the title's use of the word "de" instead of "the" is an example of the purposeful use of African American Vernacular English to convey downhome Black connection and authenticity. The tune & moderately slow tempo for "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" appear to have become fixed, and it seems to me that the tune has a Reggae-like sound.

It also seems to me that "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront" might be considered a folk song, meaning that different lyrics and different order of verses might be acceptable and even improvised on the spot. That said, the version of "Meet De Boys On De Battlefield that is included in "The Wild Tchapatoulas" album is considered the definitive version of this song. With regard to the use of other lyrics for this song (or other Mardi Gras Indian songs) those lyrics should be true to the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians and not contain referents and words that aren't authentic. Examples of what I consider to be referents and words that I believe are outside of the Mardi Gras Indian culture are found in the rendition of this song by the California based, Anglo-American group "Marley's Ghost". The lyrics in that version that I believe aren't authentic to Mardi Gras Indian culture are the line "big Chief Kahuna and I can't be bought", the line "Yes, it's a Rudy Poopalina and a hoo-na-no!" and the phrase "...steal my queen". Click http://www.lyrics007.com/Marley's%20Ghost%20Lyrics/Meet%20De%20Boys%20On%20The%20Battlefront%20Lyrics.html for the lyrics to that rendition of "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront".

****
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. Here's information about that album from the summary statement of a video of 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."

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 usually appears to be given as given as jockomo fina nay"

****
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.

****
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.

****
RELATED LINK
Click this page of my cocojams.com cultural website http://www.cocojams.com/content/mardi-gras-indian-songs-chants for more Mardi Gras Indians songs.

****
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment