Sweet Crude frontman Sam Craft tells BlastEcho about his favorite song you’ve never heard:
New Orleans is known for its magic, its mystery and its vibrancy. But perhaps the most magical, mysterious and vibrant part about our city is the Mardi Gras Indians. The Indians are, for a lot of us, the biggest source of soul and pride for New Orleans. They represent the coming together of cultures and a celebration of joy and music. Even as born and raised New Orlean-ians, we don’t fully understand the inner workings of Mardi Indian culture or the provenance of most of their traditions. We just know that they make us sing, dance and cry.
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Starting in the 18th century, escaped slaves and, later on, freed people of color, began to interact with Native Americans along the bayous of South Louisiana. This, combined with the 19th-century fad of traveling Wild West shows, led to the inclusion of Native Americans and blacks dressed in feathered ceremonial garb in New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. Soon came the formation of all-black “Indian Tribes” (a response to the all-white Mardi Gras fraternal organizations of the time), of which there are now dozens. In the early days of the Indians, there were said to be contentious turf wars, which often ended in bloody conflict, an analog to today’s street gang warfare. These days, battles are held ceremoniously, with much pomp and circumstance over whose suit is the prettiest. Thousands now gather to watch and participate in their celebrations in the streets of New Orleans. Accompanying all the ceremonial dancing and promenading of the Indians is an entire genre of music that is ubiquitous in New Orleans, but which basically goes unknown to the rest of the world. Indian groups generally celebrate only with voices and percussion, but they have frequently made albums with other New Orleans instrumentalists of note.
Back in the 1970s, the tribe known as the Wild Tchoupitoulas — ask a New Orlean-ian how to pronounce it — was taken under the wing of local producer Allen Toussaint and paired up with funk luminaries The Meters to create an album of Mardi Gras Indian music that has become an iconic piece of New Orleans art. “Indian Red” is often considered the National Anthem of the Mardi Gras Indians and sings of the nobility of the Indians the importance of their traditions in their typical mix of English and a pidgin of French and Native languages. We hope it gives you chills and sends you on a YouTube/Wikipedia rampage.
For more on Sweet Crude, check out: https://sweetcrudeband.bandcamp.com/