Friday, February 24, 2006

Having observed and danced with New Orleans' benevolent societies . . .

For me the second line is a deeply-felt mode of emotional expression. Having watched many Crescent City parades during my youth and salad days I have internalized the spirit of the New Orleans benevolent society funeral march, which is the chief source for the jazz line rituals. Once upon a time in the 80's I even danced in the street crowd following an African-American burial society on their way to the graveyard.
After all my practice and observation and gathering of background this was the fruition of a long-held dream state.

Second lining can be waay expressive and athletic, eh?

There's nothing finer to me than seeing a room of people pulsating cross the floor to the jazz of Louis Satchmo Armstrong.

Second lining (the brass band is the "first line") is a New Orleans dancical expression, though you can find similar practices in the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa.

LouisiAfrica is what I call our darling Creole state!

Telling stories, dancing and jamming requires:

a) tuxedo to evoke the classic entertainer's image
b) samba whistle so I can keep the dancers at a fine pitch
c) red suspenders for a flash of color
d) advertising buttons to create a wider awareness of good stuff.
e) Zulu beads round my collar to remind everyone of Fat Tuesday morn in New Orleans.

Story telling - while getting a Mimosa refill from Lee Bamberg, host

Java Junction is the kind of restaurant where I tell my stories of Louisiana's heritage. People in the audience drink, eat and listen - and get up to dance and then wield shakers and sing.

Participation is the key, eh?

Louisiana folk instrument: spoons

Louisiana folk instrument: spoons
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
If you're listening to a Cajun or zydeco jam, what better improvisation could there be than using spoons
as percussion? Louisiana has always been a materially poor state. Traditionally there weren't a lot of nice drums around. We picked up whatever was handy and made a rhythmic noise. That includes scrub boards, metal triangles and sticks. Let's jam to that inimitable bayou beat!

Allons danser!

Allons danser!
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Dancing is a huge part of the joy of Carnival. While standing around with a drink in your hand may Seem to be the dominant mode of celebration, I beg to differ. Let's dance!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Louisiana Carnival quiz beneath a Venetian mask

Maschera 03
Originally uploaded by marco.72.

Global Carnival and Louisiana:
a quiz on the international implications of Mardi Gras
Robert Trudeau

1. The term Carnival comes from the a) French b) German c) Latin d) English.
2. Carnival means a) "Let us celebrate!" b) "A journey to the New World!" c) "Goodbye to flesh!" d) "Wine and feasting for all!"
3. Rex is the best-known krewe of New Orleans but it is not quite the oldest. That distinction belongs to the Mystick Krewe of a) Zulu b) Proteus c) Comus.
4. The horse-mounted men of the Cajun courir de Mardi Gras ride to their neighbors' farms to entertain and to request a) the loan of their first-born son b) a contribution to the gumbo c) a round of beers d) a kiss from each of the ladies.
5. New Orleans still has nighttime parades illuminated in part by men carrying pole-mounted torches. The torches are called a) doubloons b) dragee c) flambeaux.
6. The New Orleans krewe with the biggest floats and the most throws: a) Zulu b) Comus c) Rex d) Bacchus.
7. New Orleans also celebrates the arrival of Rex at the river front on the day before Fat Tuesday. That day has a French name, too: a) Jeudi Gras b) Lundi Gras c) Dimanche Gras d) Vendredi Gras.
8. The first parade to roll on Mardi Gras morning is the one that traditionally did not print a specific parade route: a) Zulu b) Rex c) Comus.
9. The European nation with the longest Carnival season; it begins in November.
a) Senegal b) Germany c) Brazil d) Trinidad .
10. This European nation features a Women's Parade Day during which the females on the floats may descend into the crowd to grab men for hugs and kisses: a) Brazil b) Jamaica c) Germany d) Italy.
11. Carnival costumes are frequently so large in this Caribbean nation that they must be supported by metal frames and outrigger wheels. The nation: a) Jamaica
b) Trinidad c) Brazil.
12. In England the day we know as Fat Tuesday is called Pancake Day or _____ Tuesday. The word means "to forgive someone's sins." a) Shrove Tuesday b) Mauve Tuesday c) Clove Tuesday.
13. The largest number of people at a Carnival gathering in the world: a) New Orleans b) Munich, Germany c) Rio de Janeiro.
14. T / F New Orleans Mardi Gras was not affected by the graceful dancing and festive costumes seen on African-American slaves as they gathered every Sunday in Congo Square.
15. Nova Scotia was known to the French as a) Canada b) New France c) Acadia
d) Haiti North.
16. Which group of French-speaking colonists came to Louisiana first? a) the Acadians, popularly known as the Cajuns b) French colonists under Governors Iberville and Bienville.
17. The principal region from which slaves were brought to the New World: a) North Africa b) East Africa c) South Africa d) West Africa.

18. The nation that is home to the Roman Catholic Church and place where the first
Carnival masking and parades were seen: a) Italy b) France c) England.
19. T / F The term Creole comes from the Spanish word for "cry." It referred to the cry of a baby born to parents who have emigrated to the New World.
20. Louisiana's Carnival season begins on January 6. That day is also known as a) Twelfth Night b) Tableau Night c) Dionysus Night.
21. Shreveport-Bossier has perhaps half a dozen parading krewes. The New Orleans
area has some a) 25 b) 50 c) 300 parades.
22. The immediate source for traditions and materials in Louisiana's early carnival festivities was a) Paris b) Rome c) Venice d) London.
23. In the city of New Orleans, which was developed first? a) Jazz music b) Mardi Gras.
24. What force connects the culture of South Louisiana to Carnival and makes it difficult for North Louisiana to do the same? a) racial heritage b) poverty
c) socio-religious culture d) history.
25. What unites the various US states who have the biggest propensity to Carnival? a) telecommunications b) the Gulf c) love of costumes d) music.
26. Which group of European colonists used the port of Cadiz as their point of embarkation and debarkation to Louisiana? a) Spain b) France c) Italy d) Portugal.
27. Which group of people spent a year or two on a Caribbean island before being allowed to work in the American colonies? a) Acadians b) Africans c) Creoles.
28. T / F Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Congo: these are the West African nations of America's heritage.

Friday, February 03, 2006

African-American role in Carnival, a European celebration / Gregory Cooper at Artspace, Shreveport

Gregory Cooper at Artspace
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
African-Americans in Louisiana colony had unusual freedoms, according to Gewndolyn Midlo Hall, in her book Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the 18th Century. Among the freedoms accorded by the French colonial administration was weekly dancing and drumming in the "back of town."

The costumes donned by African slaves as they danced on the levee or back o' town, Place Congo, were extravagant, according to European observers. In these improvised costumes we see the roots and inspiration for New Orleans costumes.

Thanks to Shreveporter Greg Cooper, Artspace staffer, for holding a copy How To Mardi Gras. It's an excellent place to purchase this comprehensive guide to Louisiana's Carnival celebrations.