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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Some Information About The Mardi Gras Indian's Traditional Song "Iko Iko" (with lyrics for three versions of that song)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about the Mardi Gras song "Iko Iko".

Lyrics for three versions of three versions of this song.


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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the Mardi Gras Indian culture for this song. Thanks to all those who are showcased in these YouTube examples and thanks to the publishers of these YouTube examples. 
-snip-

Danny Barker - Chocko Mo Feendo Hay (recorded in 1946). This is the earliest recording of the songs that became known as "Iko Iko". I didn't know about this version until after this  pancocojams post was published.)


Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2021/02/three-youtube-examples-of-mardi-gras.html for the pancocojams posts entitled "Three YouTube Examples Of The Mardi Gras Indian Song "Iko Iko" (also known as "Jockomo").

Also, click 
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/03/meet-de-boys-on-de-battlefront-mardi.html for a pancocojams post entitled "Wild Tchoupitoulas - Meet De Boys On De Battlefront (Mardi Gras Indian song examples, information, & lyrics)". That post includes some information about the Mardi Gras Indians.


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SOME INFORMATION ABOUT THE MARDI GRAS INDIANS' TRADITIONAL SONG "IKO IKO"
From h
ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iko_Iko 
"Iko Iko" … is a much-covered New Orleans song that tells of a parade collision between two tribes of Mardi Gras Indians and the traditional confrontation. The song, under the original title "Jock-A-Mo", was written and released in 1953 as a single by Sugar Boy and his Cane Cutters but it failed to make the charts. The song first became popular in 1965 by girl group The Dixie Cups, who scored an international hit with "Iko Iko". In 1967, as part of a lawsuit settlement between Crawford and the Dixie Cups, the trio were given part songwriting credit for the song. In 1972, Dr. John had a minor hit with his version of "Iko Iko". The most successful charting version in the UK was recorded by Scottish singer Natasha England who took her 1982 version into the top 10. "Iko Iko" became an international hit again twice more, the first being the Belle Stars in June 1982 and again with Captain Jack in 2001.

Sugar Boy and his Cane Cutters version

Background

The song was originally recorded by and released as a single in November 1953 by James Crawford as "Sugar Boy and his Cane Cutters", on Checker Records (Checker 787). The single features Dave Lastie on tenor saxophone. Crawford's version of the song did not make the charts. The story tells of a "spy boy" (i.e. a lookout for one band of Indians) encountering the "flag boy" or guidon carrier for another "tribe". He threatens to "set the flag on fire". Crawford set phrases chanted by Mardi Gras Indians to music for the song. Crawford himself states that he has no idea what the words mean, and that he originally sang the phrase "Chock-a-mo", but the title was misheard by Chess Records and Checker Records president Leonard Chess, who misspelled it as "Jock-a-mo" for the record's release.[2]

"Sugar Boy" Crawford's story

James Crawford, gave a 2002 interview with OffBeat Magazine discussing the song's meaning:[2]

Interviewer: How did you construct 'Jock-A-Mo?'

Crawford: It came from two Indian chants that I put music to. "Iko Iko" was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. "Jock-A-Mo" was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them. Really it was just like "Lawdy Miss Clawdy". That was a phrase everybody in New Orleans used. Lloyd Price just added music to it and it became a hit. I was just trying to write a catchy song....

Interviewer: Listeners wonder what 'Jock-A-Mo' means. Some music scholars say it translates in Mardi Gras Indian lingo as 'Kiss my ass,' and I've read where some think 'Jock-A-Mo' was a court jester. What does it mean?

Crawford: I really don't know. (laughs)

The Dixie Cups version

Background

The Dixie Cups version was the result of an unplanned jam in a New York City recording studio where they began an impromptu version of "Iko Iko", accompanying themselves with drumsticks on an aluminum chair, a studio ashtray and a Coke bottle.[3] After their producers cleaned up the track and added the backup vocals, bass and drums to the song, the single was then released in March 1965.[4] The Dixie Cups scored an international hit single with "Iko Iko" in May 1965 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart where their version peaked at number 20 and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100.[5] The song also charted at number 23 on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number 20 on the R&B Chart.[6] In Canada "Iko Iko" reached number 26 on the RPM Chart.[7] It was the third single taken from their debut studio album Chapel of Love issued on Red Bird Records in August 1964.[8]

The Dixie Cups had learned "Iko, Iko" from hearing the Hawkins sisters' grandmother sing it,[3] but they knew little about the origin of the song and so the original authorship credit went to the members, Barbara Ann Hawkins, her sister Rosa Lee Hawkins, and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson.

 Legal battles

After the Dixie Cups version of "Iko Iko" was a hit in 1965, they and their record label, Red Bird Records, were sued by James Crawford, who claimed that "Iko Iko" was the same as his composition "Jock-a-mo".[9] Although The Dixie Cups denied that the two compositions were similar, the lawsuit resulted in a settlement in 1967 with Crawford making no claim to authorship or ownership of "Iko Iko",[10] but being credited 25% for public performances, such as on radio, of "Iko Iko" in the United States. A comparison of the two recordings demonstrates the shared lyric and melody between the two songs, though the arrangements are different in tempo, instrumentation and harmony. Crawford's rationale for the settlement was motivated by years of legal battles with no royalties. In the end, he stated, "I don't even know if I really am getting my just dues. I just figure 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing."[2]"...
-snip-
I thought that James Crawford was the first person to record a song that included the word "Jokomo". However, I just happened upon this article while looking for information about another traditional Mardi Gras Indian song "Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing":

https://www.myneworleans.com/moulding-the-music/ 
Moulding the Music: Danny Barker in the here and now; 02/01/2016 Jason Berry
"
In 1946, the balladeer Danny Barker played guitar and sang four tracks for a short-lived New York label that constitute the first songs of Mardi Gras Indians – a term of no media currency back then. “Indian Red,” has had many reincarnations since.

Barker also sang a paean to a Big Chief’s woman killed in a crossfire, “Corinne Died on the Battlefield,” which Willie T. and Bo Dollis refitted as “Corey Died on the Battlefield” for The Wild Magnolias in 1973.

Another tune, “Chocko Me Feendo Hey,” was popularized in 1954 as “Jockomo” by Sugar Boy and the Cane Cutters, and 10 years later as a refrain in “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups. Barker didn’t create the lines but was the first to use them in studio with a long reach back to streets of his youth."....

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THREE VERSIONS OF THE SONG "IKO IKO" (originally recorded as "Jokomo")

1. James Crawford (Sugar Boy and his Cane Cutters), 1953

Iko, iko
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Oh, my spyboy met your spyboy
Sittin' by the fire
My spyboy told your spyboy
"I'm gonna set your flag on fire"

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now, hey now
iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Oh, look at my queen all dressed in red
Iko iko an de
I bet you five dollars she'll kill you dead
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now, hey now
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now, hey now
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Oh, iko, iko
Iko iko an de
I'm having my fun on the Mardi Gras day
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now, hey now
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee la le

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now, hey now
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee lo an da de
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

https://genius.com/James-sugar-boy-crawford-jock-a-mo-lyrics
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2. 
The Dixie Cup, 1965 

[Verse 1]
My grandma and your grandma
Were sittin' by the fire
My grandma told your grandma
"I'm gonna set your flag on fire."

[Chorus]
Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko, Iko, an day (oh)
Jocomo fee no an dan day
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Instrumental Interlude]

[Verse 2]
Look at my king
All dressed in red
Iko, Iko, an day
I betcha five dollars
He'll kill you dead
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Chorus]
Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko, Iko, an day (oh)

Jocomo fee no an dan day
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Instrumental Interlude]

[Verse 3]
My flag boy and your flag boy
Sittin' by the fire
My flagboy told your flagboy
"I'm gonna set your flag on fire."

[Chorus]
Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko, Iko, an day (oh)
Jocomo fee no an dan day
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Instrumental Interlude]

[Verse 4]
(Oh... yes)
See that guy all dressed in green?
Iko, Iko, an day
He not a man
He a lovin' machine
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Chorus]
Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko, Iko, an day (oh)
Jocomo fee no an dan day
Jocomo fee nan nay

[Bridge]

[Chorus]
Talkin' 'bout
Hey now
Hey now (hey now)
Iko, Iko, an day (oh)
Jocomo fee no an dan day
Jocomo fee nan nay
Jocomo fee nan nay
(I say he's dressed in green)
Jocomo fee nan nay
(Iko)
Jocomo fee nan nay

https://genius.com/The-dixie-cups-iko-iko-lyrics

****
Version #3
[recorded by Dr. John, recorded in 1972

Iko, iko
Iko iko un day
Jockomo feeno ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay


My spyboy tell your spyboy
Sittin' on the bayou
My spyboy told your spyboy
"I'm gonna set your tail on fire"


Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko un day
Jockomo feeno ah na day
Jockomo feena nay


My marraine and your marraine
Sitting on the Bayou
My marraine told your parraine
"I'm gon' set your thing on fire"
We goin' down the for-lay-shon [?]
Iko, Iko, an day
We gonna catch a lil' ol' salmon
Now, with jockomo fee no an dan day, now


Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko un day (oh)
Jockomo feeno ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay
Alright

See Marie down the railroad track
Iko Iko an day
Said put it here in a chicken sack
With jockomo fee nan day

My little boy told your little boy
"Get your head on my-oh"
My little girl told your little boy
"We're gonna get your chicken wire"

Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko un day
Jockomo feeno ah na day
Now, wasn't jockomo feena nay


We goin' down to Baker town
Iko iko an day
We goin' tell 'em 'bout your messin' around
You gone jockomo fee nan day

Father, what y'all tell them to
Iko iko an day
'Cause we ain't do what you tell us to
Now, you can jockomo fee nan day, now


Talkin' 'bout
Hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko Iko un day

Jockomo feeno ah na nay
Now, wouldn't Jockomo feena nay
Jockomo fee nan dan day

What I say an day
Jockomo fee nan dan day
What I say an day
Jockomo fee nan dan day
What I say an day

Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)
What I say an day (Jockomo feena nay)
Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)
What I say an day (Jockomo feena nay)
Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)
What I say an day (Jockomo feena nay)
Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)
What I say an day (Jockomo feena nay)
Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)
What I say an day (Jockomo feena nay)
Jockomo fee nan dan day (Iko, iko un day)


https://genius.com/Dr-john-iko-iko-lyrics

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3 comments:

  1. Here's a link to a very long Mudcat (folk music forum) discussion thread entitled "Jacomo finane? What does that mean?" https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=23200.

    The comments on that discussion thread (including some comments that I wrote in 2007) were published from Jul 11, 2000 to Dec. 19, 2015.
    (That comment section is still open which means that new comments can be added.)

    Here's one comment from that discussion thread that was posted by a person who lives/ed in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    Subject: RE: Jacomo finane? What does that mean?
    From: PoppaGator
    Date: 04 Apr 07 - 02:53 PM

    ..."I don't think we can "nail down" any definitive meanings for any of this stuff (unfamiliar words, etc.) that comes from the Mardi Gras Indians. As someone mentioned above, today's Indians themselves no longer know what all the words and phrases mean!

    This stuff is ancient, and comes from a culture that has had very little (if any) written history, just an oral tradition passed along in a dead language that may or may not have evolved from Creole French patois, long-lost African vocabularies, and maybe a little bit of Italian picked up from New Orleans' Sicilian-immigrant population (a possible, if unlkely, source for a refernce to "Giacomo" the Carnivale jester.)

    A few random footnotes:

    Uptown tribes tend to pronounce it "fee-nah-nay," but downtown Indians say "fee-on-day." The two different pronunciations also both appear on commerical recordings. That alone should put some doubt on any attempt at an "accurate" translation!

    Sugarboy Crawford made the first commercial recording based on a Mardi Gras Indian chant, but by no stretch of the imagination did he "write" Jock-A-Mo/Iko Iko."...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's a children's version of "Iko Iko" that I found in 2007 on a "streetplay: Girl Games Clap And Rhymes Archive" website for children's rhymes. The link for that website is no longer viable.

    "My grandmother and your grandmother, sittin by the fire
    My grandmother says to your grandmother, gonna set your flag on fire
    Talkin bout hey now, hey now, iko iko anay
    Talkin bout fena, ana lay, talkin bout fena lay.

    My fat boy and your fat boy, sittin by the fire
    My fat boy says to your fat boy, gonna set your flag on fire
    Talkin bout hey now, hey now, iko iko aney
    Talkin bout fena, ana lay, talkin bout fena lay.
    -By Anonymous on Monday, May 1, 2000
    -snip-
    I'd like to emphasize that this example shows how childen might misunderstand, mishear, or misremember words to a song, rhyme, or chant and then change those words to ones that make sense to them. In that example "feena ne" was changed to fena lay" and "flag boy" was changed to "fat boy".

    This streetplay example isn't meant to suggest that this was he way that Mardi Gras Indian adults sung or chanted "Iko Iko".

    ReplyDelete
  3. I haven't found the lyrics to the version of "Jokomo" that Danny Barker recorded in 1946 under the group name Danny Barker and his Creole Cats.

    If anyone knows these lyrics, please share them in that YouTube discussion thread or here at pancocojams.

    By the way, the summary to that YouTube sound file gives a link to a web page on my no longer available cocojams.com cultural website. That website had general information about Mardi Gras Indians as well as some lyrics and comments about certain Mardi Gras Indian songs. However, I don't recall my cocojams website having any lyrics for any Danny Barker songs.

    Here's that summary from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deQP1VeCi4s&ab_channel=MaddyTube, excluding that cocojams link:
    " "Jockamo" ( Chocko Mo ) is a Mardi Gras Indian chant, from the African-American community of New Orleans and dating back to times when French (and/or various Creole French dialects) was spoken as commonly as English. The song itself is not really (or not entirely) in French ~ Indian "language" is a mysterious patois that only a few initiates understand. Or maybe nobody really knows it at all, but the members of the various tribes want the rest of us to believe that they are indeed custodians of an ancient secret language."

    ReplyDelete