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The Caesar Brothers' Funk Box / Blog

What is this Indian talk all about?

If you didnt grow up in New Orleans, or if you did, but not in the right neighborhoods, you are probably wondering what all the smoke signals and lyrics about Indians are all about. To long and short it, legend/urban myth/oral history has it that a couple hundred years ago, black slaves in the New Orleans area began to run away into nearby swamplands. Finding aid, understanding and solace with the Original People who were already living there, the two groups formed one community and began merging their traditions. This version of how Mardi Gras Indians came to be is very simplified but for right now, will have to do. Later, in New Orleans, small groups of black indians began masking and parading around Mardi Gras time, sometimes using masking as a way to make good on grudges formed throughout the year and to take violent revenge on rivals. Throughout the years, the costumes became ever more elaborate, taking concerted time, effort, and money to create in the months between carnivals. Thousands of dollars are invested into these beautiful garments and the heavy beading is gorgeous, intricate, imaginative, and HEAVY. For myself, I am so grateful to see the continuation of this tradition, regardless of where it started, because it represents an upthrust fist in the face of the purposeful assimilation planned for both blacks and native americans and says "We won't bow." There is more ground to cover than is possible in this small blog but suffice it to say, that at some point, the Mardi Gras tribes (which are many and will be listed and an attempt made to explain the structure in a later blog) began to make their fights less violent and more a contest of skill in regard to craftmanship of costumes. It reminds me of b-boys taking their beef to the dancefloor in a strange kind of way. But I digress. All of this to say, for those of us who honor and respect the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians, The CB Funk Box is yet another way to bear homage to a noble history and to keep it alive today. More to come. Keep Dancing! Ms. Maaike HBIP

Yavanna Mahoganyprincez Johnson
Yavanna Mahoganyprincez Johnson  (over 4 years ago)

Very interesting story! Yes slaves that were captured in Africa, Jamaica,etc. in order to fulfill the duties of their masters often were oppressed. The famous congo square was often used by slaves to alleviate pressures from their daily routines of hard labor! Congo square was a place where slaves danced, played instruments, and exhibit their cultural talents. If i'm not mistaken these talents were exhibited on a sunday and was suddenly abrupted by slave masters. This terribly upset the slaves and in retaliation they flees to nearby swamp lands where Indians helped them to escape oppression. In these swamp lands slaves were taught the cultures and heritages of Indians. They became friends and were aids to one another when war and disagreements came about concerning the harsh treatments of the slave owners.