Edited by Azizi Powell
This post showcases a YouTube example of and lyrics for the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian song "Meet De Boys On De Battlefront".
General comments about Mardi Gras Indians 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/2014/03/meet-de-boys-on-de-battlefront-mardi.html for the pancocojams post "Wild Tchoupitoulas - Meet De Boys On De Battlefront (Mardi Gras Indian song examples, information, & lyrics)"
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MARDI GRAS INDIANS
"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."...
From Google book excerpt: "Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture" by George Lipsitz
..."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
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."..
LYRICS- MEET DE BOYS ON THE BATTLEFRONT
(Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias)
Meet De Boys On The Battlefront x3
where the Wild Tchoupitoulas gonna stomp some rump
Well the prettiest little thing that I ever see
is the mardi gras indians down in new orleans
he sewed all night and he sewed all day
Mardi Gras morning went all the way
Indians coming from all over town
big chief singing "gonna take em down"
jockomo filo ela hey*
indians are rulers on the holiday
Mardi Gras morning won't be long
gonna play indians, gonna carry on
maskers running up and down the avenue
and here come the indians, let em through
I'm an indian ruler from the thirteenth ward
third sifahuna of all before
I walk through fire and I smell through mud
snagged the feathers from an eagle, drink panther's blood
While the itty-bitty spy got a heart of steel
if his shank won't get you, his hatchet will
gelo me hacko noona no**
he shoot the gun in the jailhouse door
I'll bring my gang all over town
and drink fire water till the sun go down
when we get back home we gonna kneel and pray
we had some fun on the holiday
*This Mardi Gras saying is usually given as "jockomo fe na nay".
**The end of this Mardi Gras saying is usually given as "hoo na nay"
SHOWCASE VIDEO: Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias - Meet De Boys on the Battlefront
Nakano Mamoru Published on Jan 21, 2015
Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias - Meet De Boys on the Battlefront
(Mardi Gras In New Orleans)
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