Thursday, February 23, 2006

Indians comin’

Since the mid-18th century, there has been a tradition of Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans. Large groups of working class blacks will dress up in ornate ‘Indian’ outfits unlike anything that Native Americans would ever have worn. These tribes go out and dance in the streets to chants and their own drumming. You can read more about the ritual if you want.

Two of the tribes released records.

The Wild Magnolias (led by Big Chief Bo Dollis) were the first tribe to do any recording. The tribe recorded a great 45 called “Handa Wanda” In 1974, Phillipe Rault from France’s Barclay Records recorded an album came out on Polydor that same year. The songs were from the pool of street chants that you would hear during Mardi Gras. On the record though, there is a great backup band led by Willie Tee and featuring Snooks Eaglin.

Two years later, The Wild Tchoupitoulas (led by Chief George Landry) recorded an LP for Island records. The songs are also based on the same bunch of street chants. The Meters are the backup band for the Tchoupitoulis. Actually, the Meters may not have existed without the Wild Tchoupitoulis. Landry is the Neville Brothers uncle, he convinced his nephews to start a rhythm section to back up his tribe.

So who wins the battle of the bands? I say it’s a tie. The Magnolias win on individual songs but the Wild Tchoupitoulas have a better LP, the songs flow together, it’s hard to pick out one track as being better than the others.

Both tribes are still active on the streets of New Orleans. The Wild Magnolias recorded one more LP in the Seventies and several more since then. Polydor released a CD of the first Wild Magnolias LP with outtakes and B-sides a few years ago, I wish I had a copy. Go to the Wild Magnolias website and download the great 45 version of “Handa Wanda” from 1969. The Wild Tchoupitoulas never recorded another album.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

W O N D E R F U L ! ! !

26/2/06 6:42 PM  

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