Chanson de Mardi Gras

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CHANSON DE MARDI GRAS (The Mardi Gras Song). Cajun, Two-Step (4/4 time). USA, Louisiana. A Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). A(Vocal)B(Vocal)C(Vocal)D(Vocal)E(Vocal)A. The accompaniment is simply an A minor chord. Raymond Francois (1990) states the tune can be traced to medieval France. He relates that the Cajun tradition of Mardi Gras (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season--Mardi Gras means 'Fat Tuesday') was celebrated differently in New Orleans and the southwestern Louisiana countryside. The rural communities each had their own celebration, which involved a ritual akin to the British Isles mummers. Costumed riders would go from farm to farm collecting goods from each household to be used for a community feast, usually a gumbo. The leader, or captain, of the riders was always unmasked and first approached the head of the household for permission to visit. Upon receiving an affirmative he would signal with a flag the rest of the group who would ride up to perform tricks or dance in return for food. "The household will contribute ingredients for the communal gumbo: rice, oil, flour, sometimes even a live chicker, which is thrown to the riders; it is their task to catch it, which can lead to more clowning." There were no dances held during Lent, though they were permissable on Easter. A related song is "Danse de Mardi Gras (1)."

Source for notated version: Bee Deshotels [Francois].

Printed sources: Francois (Yé Yaille, Chère!), 1990; pp. 218-222.

Recorded sources: Arhoolie Records AR-5009, Bee Deshotel.


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