Mudcat Café message #1650565 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #88125   Message #1650565
Posted By: Azizi
17-Jan-06 - 08:51 PM
Thread Name: Iko Iko
Subject: RE: Iko Iko
Speaking of the meaning of some of the Iko Iko lyrics, I hope that I'm not committing a mortal sin, but I just really gotta repost substantial portions of GUEST,Bob Coltman's post in the Cajun thread linked above.

Subject: RE: Cajun Music
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman - PM
Date: 17 Jan 06 - 08:56 AM

"...Bravo to the Dixie Cups, who learned it from tradition, for smacking the country in the eye with New Orleans' best song.

"Iko Iko" has many more verses than the Dixies used, in fact it picks up verses from everywhere, such as the "Uncle John" portmanteau song. Here are some of the verse I sing, together with a few others I haven't resolved. My main source was a great record of New Orleans piano done years ago by Dr. John, but as you'll see I've picked up a number of verses from other sources as well.

By the way, a "Jockamo" = a jester, jokester.

First is a variant of the "flag" (correct, refers to marchers' roles and competitive practices) verse:

My ma reine to your ma reine    [my queen]
Sittin' by the fire
Says my ma reine to your ma reine,
I'm gonna set your flag on fire.

A variant has "set yo' JAIL on fire" - sounds like Prisoner's Base, doesn't it.
Here's one I can't get some key words to -- help anyone?

We gone down to {? sounds like   "Old a Shone"??}
Iko ...
We don't caretill [?? sounds like "whole sa morn'n"??}
Iko...

Se ma reine down the railroad track...
She put it in a chicken shack...

My li'l boy to your li'l girl,
Get your head on higher,
My li'l girl to your li'l boy,
We gonna get yo' chicken wire   [pron. wyo']

If you don't like w'at the doctor say
Iko ...

You come on down to Becca Town
Iko...
We gone talk about you messin' aroun'
Iko...

[Ain't no use you say what t'do??]
Iko ...
'Cause we ain't gone do what you tell us to
Iko ...

Me big chief, me [remainder not understood] [?? ... town???]
Iko ...
Well, ben' the knee when I walk around,
Iko ...

My ma reine all dress in red,
Iko ...
Injun feather all in e head,
Iko ...

I remember this mornin' I remember it well,
Iko ...
I 'member the day when Uncle John fell,
Iko ...

Note "I remember it well" line is an echo of the one in the Bahamian "I Bid You Good Night" that was picked up by lots of us in the 60s, notably Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band.

Becca Town has huge connotations. It was the "inside name" for the downclass and dive district, overlapping Storyville to some extent, but perhaps excluding the kinds of nightclubs whites frequented. Becca Town belonged to the indigenous culture, the underclass, and when Mr. Man hove into view it was the signal for a variety of reactions from self-protective to hostile..."

-snip-

Much respect and thanks, Bob for hippin me to the meaning of
"ma reine" and "Becca town"!