Mudcat Café message #1650575 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #88125   Message #1650575
Posted By: Azizi
17-Jan-06 - 09:04 PM
Thread Name: Iko Iko
Subject: RE: Iko Iko
Finally {for this evening anyway}, I'm reposting this comment that I made on the Cajun Music thread:

Subject: RE: Cajun Music
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 15 Jan 06 - 11:59 AM

Also, with regard to the "flag boys" lyrics that are part of the song "Iko Iko", see the following two websites about Mardi Gras Indians:

"The Mardi Gras Indians revel in revealing their elaborate creations in beadwork, feathers and plumes inspired by the ceremonial and war suits and headdresses of the Plains Indians of the 19th century. They thrive in New Orleans today as the living manifestation of an age-old ritual, preserved and practiced by the descendants of African slaves held captive in America, which goes back to the perambulating societies of West Africa and their call-and-response chants, and to the secret societies of masked warriors which are common to both African and native American cultures.

It's a ritual which continues to live in the mean streets of 21st-century New Orleans and in the hearts of the people of the most run-down, destitute, stripped-bare-and-left-for-dead underclass neighborhoods of the city, where the Wild Indians of Mardi Gras perennially represent the triumph of spirit, creativity, and beauty of song and dance over every obstacle placed in their arduous path.

There's nothing like seeing the Wild Indians in their natural habitat, emerging like eye-popping apparitions in all their magnificent finery out of the doorways of dilapidated inner-city houses and project apartments to strut and swagger down the middle of the beat-up streets where they struggle just like everyone else to make a living and somehow survive the crime, violence, joblessness and grinding poverty of their neighborhoods throughout the rest of the year. That's the real-life context of the Wild Indians of Mardi Gras, and year after year they manage to rise above the morass of daily life to make themselves over as creatures of immense power and beauty.

Every year, starting around Thanksgiving and continuing every Sunday evening until Mardi Gras, the members and followers of each Wild Indian gang meet up at their favorite neighborhood bar to conduct "Indian practice," a torrid ritual where the traditional chants are rehearsed and refreshed, new chants are introduced and prepared for the streets, the thrilling Indian dances and man-to-man confrontations are tried out and tested in action, old friendships are celebrated and warm new alliances may be formed.

The Indian practices are conducted or supervised by each tribe's Big Chief, who generally leads the singing and directs the course of action in this familiar setting. Other lead singers, either tribe members (Spy Boys, Flag Boys, Trail Chiefs, Wild Men) or second-line regulars and one-time Indians who know how it goes, spell the Big Chiefs throughout the evening, showing off their vocal prowess, firm grasp of the idiom, and strength of performance..."
Mardi Gras Indians

Big Chief: the leader of a particular Indian gang, and often the oldest member

- Second Chief, etc.: many gangs have underlings of the Big Chief without specific roles, unlike:

- Wild Man: member of the gang responsible for clearing a way through the crowd for the Big Chief, identifiable by horns on his suit and/or staff

- Flag Boy, First Flag, etc: member that carries the large, usually feathered staffs who conveys contact with rivals gangs spotted by the Spy Boy to the rest of the gang

- Spy Boy: member responsible for locating rival gangs and alerting his gang to their whereabouts, so a battle may ensue; often carries a decorated facsimile of a rifle..."

Wild Indians of New Orleans


I'm uncertain of the impact of Katrina and its aftermath on the members and families of Mardi Gras Indians groups, and on the traditions of Mardi Gras Indian masking and chanting {not to mention Zydeco music, and New Orleans jazz and blues}. I'm afraid that the impact is likely to have been devastating.

This is a low down cryin disgrace for a nation that prides itself on being the most civilized in the world.