Mudcat Café message #546888 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #38525   Message #546888
Posted By: Joe Offer
11-Sep-01 - 06:40 AM
Thread Name: Cajun Mardi Gras songs
Subject: RE: Cajun Mardi Gras songs
In contrast to Tee Mamou, the conclusion of the Grand Marais Mardi Gras song is similar to French Canadian (and by extension continental French) drinking songs and toasts. One example of this genre of toast is the following excerpt from Quebec called "Les Canadiens ne sont pas des Fous" (the Canadians are not fools) (Tache 1946).

Ah les Marquis, boum
Sont pas des fous, boum
Partiront pas, boum
Sans prendre un coup
Ah the Marquis, boum
Are not fools, boum
Don't leave, boum
Without having a shot [drink]


Versions of this toast diffused to Louisiana where they survived in forms which refer to "Les Acadiens" (the Acadians). Two variants of these texts are reported from Vermillion Parish (a relatively short distance from Grand Marais) but they do not appear to be associated with Mardi Gras songs in that area. The first, reported by Brookshire Blanchet in 1970 is as follows:

Les Acadiens sont pas si fou de nous laisser a boire un gout,
a boire, a boire un petite gout.
The Acadians are not so crazy to leave us to drink a taste,
to drink, to drink a little taste.


A more developed text was recently recorded from the same general area.15.

Les Acadiens sont pas si fou de se laisser sans boire un Coup
Que le diable leur casser les cotes
Toutes les unes apres les autre
Les petite comme les grosses
The Acadian are not so crazy as to leave themselves without a drink
May the devil break his ribs
One after another
The little ones like the big ones


It is interesting to note that the Post variant is much closer to drinking songs because it has no colorful ending. If the Tee Mamou and Grand Marais songs were derived from a song like the Post variant, or that exact song, it is highly plausible that these communities chose to round out the original song with lines taken from other songs. These changes indicate a conscious choice to transform texts in order to differentiate them from neighboring variants.
A parallel to this scenario can be found in the contemporary Prairie du Rocher, Illinois Guignolee celebration. The current song leader stated that earlier this century when there were various active Guignolee groups in the same area, each utilized the same basic song text but they added a few lines to the ending in order to distinguish it from other groups. If the Mardi Gras song did, in fact, diffuse westward from Lafayette Parish to Tee Mamou and then to Grand Marais, the Guignolee example could serve to illustrate how the Mardi Gras songs came to differ in many respects particularly the endings. Related to this theme, Lindahl (1996a) proposes that each Mardi Gras group creates its own identity by elevating one or more of the basic elements of Mardi Gras above all others.
A similar process may be assumed for the development of community-specific song Mardi Gras texts through time. For example, Tee Mamou has always emphasized dancing with female members (as indicated in its song text, ideally the eldest daughter) of households during visits whereas this does not occur in the Grand Marais performance. However, the Grand Marais group does emphasize a mini-ritual for consuming whiskey during the run. In order to be given a shot of whiskey (i.e., "a little shot of drink") by those charged with distributing alcohol, participants must kneel and remove their hat.