February 24, 2006

Indians Comin', Get The Hell Out De Way

In which two wild Mardi Gras Indian tribes square off to have some fun. . .

Seek it out

"Meet De Boys On the Battlefront" (George Landry)
Wild Tchoupitoulas, Island, 1976

Indians gone

This is the flip side of the Wild Tchoupitoulas single I featured last month. You can find more background information on it and the group there.

Written by Big Chief Jolly (George Landry), “Meet De Boys On The Battlefront” is an interesting expression of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition. Boasting about their beautiful handcrafted suits and fighting spirit, his song tells of taking to the streets Mardi Gras morning to have “fun”, displaying, singing cryptic chants, drinking, and doing battle on the holiday. Of course, over the past 40 years or so, their battles have become ritualized public competition to see who has created the best regalia and shows out best on the streets, rather than the sometimes violent gang-style turf fights (using shanks, axes, and even guns) that kept the Indians underground and outside the law for many years earlier in the 20th century. Thanks to the Wild Tchoupitoulas and Wild Magnolias, Mardi Gras Indian music became a recognized genre unto itself and brought increased recognition and popularity to these once furtive, fringe figures.

After the Wild Magnolias mixed their traditional music with more linear, rawer funk grooves (see and hear the post below) in their historic collaborations with Willie Tee, the Wild Tchoupitoulas’ followed but did not copy, working with members of the Meters and Neville family to bring a more lilting, Caribbean feel to much of their music. “Meet De Boys On the Battlefront”, with its elements of reggae and calypso, has a casual, addictive island bounce. While the material on
their eponymous album, from which the two single sides were taken, was their only recorded output, Big Chief Jolly’s tribe, family and friends created a unique cultural artifact with influences that reveal links to other avenues of the African diaspora than run through New Orleans’ many musical neighborhoods. Again, no serious fan of New Orleans music should be without it.

"Handa Wanda Pt. 1" (B. Dollis)
Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indian Band, Cresent City 25, 1970

'til St. Joseph's Day

“Handa Wanda Pt 1 & Pt 2”, recorded in late 1970 and released as a single on the Crescent City label, marks the first Wild Magnolias studio session. It came about after Quint (“Cosmic Q”) Davis, a Tulane University student, budding promoter, and fan of Mardi Gras Indians, heard Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias spontaneously jam with Willie Tee’s funk band, the Gaturs, at a campus concert earlier that year. Davis, who went on to become the long-time director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, was inspired to try to capture the magic he heard and set up a recording session for the Indians at Deep South Studios in Baton Rogue. For the backing band, he enlisted Tee on keyboards, ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste on drums, and George French on bass. Members of the Wild Magnolias* provided the other percussion and vocals, with Bo Dollis on lead.

There’s just no denying the elemental energy and unvarnished funk of this track, maybe one of the most unrecognized masterpieces of in-studio wildness ever magnetized on tape and pressed into grooved vinyl. No, it’s not recorded all that well; and Tee and French are pretty much just vamping around. But Zig, Bo and the Indian brotherhood - on drums, congas, tambourines, bottles, whatever - issue forth an undulating percussive flood that sweeps away all obstacles and resistance to rhythmic body movement. Above this churning waves, Dollis’s raw scream of a vocal, surely born of gargling razor blades, tears through the roar and sears itself into you brain. Subsequent sessions raised the musical ante and recording quality; but it is hard to argue with what sounds like a newly discovered tribe from some lost continent. By comparison, the later Wild Tchoupitoulas record (see above), great as it is, sounds like funk parlor music.

As I mentioned in
a previous post on the Wild Magnolias, the mixing of mysterious, primal Mardi Gras Indian music with the earthy, syncopated soul blossoming in New Orleans at the start of the 1970’s produced a musical blend still potent over three decades later. It seems inevitable in retrospect; but, it must have been a powerfully amazing, wondrous thing to behold at its inception, if this groundbreaking track is any indication.

*The Wild Magnolias on this track on vocals and percussion are
Big Chief Theodore Emile 'Bo' Dollis, Joseph Pierre 'Monk' Boudreaux, 'Gator June' Johnson, Jr., 'Crip' Adams, 'Quarter Moon' Tobias, 'Gate' Johnson, 'Bubba' Scott, James Smothers.

NOTE: You can hear a recording of that original 1970 WM + Gaturs jam, other unissued tracks and recent studio jams on 30 Years..And Still Wild.

Big Chief Bo


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not the best part, of course, but I really like the background visible through the hole. Nice touch. Really.

4:04 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Meet De Boys" is fantastic. It sounded a bit familiar so I got out my CD set "Treacherous: A History of The Neville Brothers" (Rhino 1988) and there it is, track 14 on Disc 1. Thanks for reminding me what great music I already have (and how great the Neville Brothers are). The 2-disc set is terrific, and still available on Amazon.com for $30-65 (!) -- http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00000334O/qid=1141068928/sr=1-9/ref=sr_1_9/103-7004644-9130228?v=glance&s=music
- Anon in Boston

1:38 PM, February 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy m grass http://www.welfarestate.com/binladen.cw44nyc@googlegroups.com

2:07 PM, March 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a truly wonderful website you have here. Thanks so much for playing the best music in the world! Up here in Toronto, I know many fans of N'Orleans music, and Professor Longhair is 'the Bach of Rock", and so many other greats alongside 'Fess come from the Crescent City. Cheers!

9:24 AM, September 09, 2009  

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