Mudcat Café message #1877821 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #88125   Message #1877821
Posted By: Azizi
06-Nov-06 - 06:36 PM
Thread Name: Iko Iko
Subject: RE: Iko Iko
Q, thanks for that information about the history of the Spain/Spanish language as it pertains to New Orleans. Perhaps, "ah sookie sookie" does come from the Spanish word "azucar" {sugar}. That fits with the sexually coded way that expression is used.

As to your statement "that the songs of the Marti Gras 'Indians' change and evolve from year to year, depending on who is leading the singing, from what I've read that certainly appears to be true. However, that does not negate the fact that performers continue to use certain traditional verses, refrains, and expressions.

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michaelr, unfortunately, I've not found any information on the meaning of the Mardi Gras Indian expression "Hey Pocky Way" or the related expression "Tu Way Pakoway".

Perhaps these expressions have no literal meaning, or maybe their literal meaning{s} has been forgotten. And it's also possible that the meaning{s} of those expressions meaning are a secret to all but those organizations' members. But it would be great if there are some folks in the know would share some for real information about the the origin of those expressions and their past & present day cultural meaning.

Sometimes you learn things when you least expect it. For example, I believe I stumbled across a children's foot stomping cheer that is based on the Mardi Gras Indian expression "Tu Way Packaway".

Way back in 1985, a group of African American girls {approximate ages 9-12 years} in Braddock, PA performed this foot stomping cheer for me while we were waiting for more children to arrive for an after-school session I was to facilitate. The cheer was recited in a sing-songey voice while the group of girls performed a synchronized bass sounding foot stomping routine to a "Stomp Stomp Clap; Stomp Stomp Clap" beat.      

Here is that cheer:

Group                Two way pass away
                Two way pass away
Soloist #1        Well my name is Shana
Group                Two way pass away
Soloist #1        They call me "Shay" "Shay"
Group                Two way pass away
Soloist #1        And if you don't like it
Group                Two way pass away
Soloist #1        You can kiss what I twist
Group                Two way pass away
Soloist #1        And I don't mean my lips
Group                Two way pass away

(Repeat cheer with the next soloist and continue until every member has had one turn as soloist}.
                
I gave that cheer high mark for creative attitude, especially the "You can kiss what I twist and I don't mean my lips" line. I knew what that line meant, but what about the "Two Way Pass Away" title and refrain? Unfortunately, no one present at the program knew what that line meant. Having never seen the cheer in written form, the girls couldn't even tell me if the first word in the title was written "two, or "too" or to". I arbitrarily chose "two", thinking that the rhyme might be talking about a two way street, or something else, but what? Of course, the girls felt that my questions about the cheer's meaning were beside the point. Children don't perform cheers to make some heavy duty sociological or psychological statement. They perform cheers because they enjoy doing so.

Years passed, and it wasn't until 1998 that I stumbled across a clue that pointed to this cheer's meaning. As luck would have it, I found a used copy of a 1968 book by Harold Courlander called "Negro Folk Rhymes, USA". In one chapter of that book Courlander wrote about the Golden Blades, Yellow Pocahontas, and other Wild Indian groups of African Americans from the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Since the late 1880s, these groups have created beautiful feather costumes and paraded down New Orleans streets during Mardi Gras and other holidays, in imitation & in honor of Native Americans who had provided support to African Americans during and after slavery.
The main chant that is associated with the Wild Indian groups is
"Tu Way Pakaway".

I believe that "Tu Way Pakaway" is the origin of the "Two Way Pass Away" chant. It's not hard to imagine that African Americans from the Pittsburgh area would have some knowledge about the Mardi Gras Indians since a number of African Americans living in Pittsburgh came from the South, visit back & forth, and otherwise communicate with Southern relatives & friends.

Few street cheers are written down or otherwise recorded. Most of them have a short life span. As time passes, the chants are significantly changed or are completely forgotten. I regret that I've not been able to locate and interview the girls who performed this chant in 1985 to ask them if they have any Southern roots. Unfortunately, although I have asked long time residents of Braddock, PA who would be about the same age group of these girls, I haven't met anyone else in Braddock, Pa, or in its surrounding communities near Pittsburgh, PA who remembers this "Two Way Pass Away" cheer. Unlike the Mardi Gras Indian expression "Tu Way Packaway" memory of the children's cheer "Two {Tu?}Way Pass Away" appears to have faded away.

Too bad.