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Go To the Mardi Gras!

posted Feb 26, 2011, 6:36 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Feb 26, 2011, 6:03 PM ]

Ever since the founding of New Orleans by d’Iberville and Bienville, the mixture of French, Canadian, African, Native American and Caribbean cultures has influenced the city’s music.   Like Christmas music, Mardi Gras music is not so much a singular style but comes in various forms: from orchestral and big-band arrangements played at tableau balls to rhythm-and-blues marches intended to incite parade revelers.

If Ever I Cease to Love is the official anthem, appointed by the Krewe of Rex, (Mardi Gras organizations are called “krewes”) who also chose the flag of purple, green and gold; standing for justice, faith and power.  Piano legend Professor Longhair, or simply “Fess”, created several classics such as Tipitina; Big Chief and Go To the Mardi Gras about someone coming to see the African-American Krewe of Zulu’s parade.  While in the army, Al Johnson wanted a song black locals could relate to, so he composed Carnival Time for their celebration on Claiborne Avenue.  (Even Carnival was segregated at one time.)  Iko Iko, made famous by the Dixie Cups, tells of a parade collision between two “tribes” of Mardi Gras Indians, and mimics the language of the Native American tribes that helped runaway slaves escape.  The Hawketts, a high school group that would later mutate into the Neville Brothers, recorded Mardi Gras Mambo.  The first zydeco recording to become an international hit was Don’t Mess with My Toot-Toot, a Cajun term of endearment meaning sweetheart, as in mà chere tout-tout.  Of course, the Crescent City’s spirit of joie de vivre has resulted in countless renditions of these and other classics such as  Second Line; Tu Le Ton Son Ton and Do Watcha Wanna.

I hope to see you next Saturday night at our parish’s annual Mardi Gras Celebration.  (Details can be found in this bulletin!)  Since I lived in New Orleans for 10 years, I’m working with the DJ to slip in a few of my musical favorites for you to enjoy.  So c’mon y’all, laissez les bon temps rouler!

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