Early on Mardi Gras Morning, a rhythmic song drifts down New Orleans' backstreets, long before most carnival revelers have roused.
The music that the Mardi Gras Indians sing today has been passed down from generation to generation, many of the songs never written down or recorded before the 1970's. The drums and tambourines, the calls and response and the passion to make music are the amalgamation of the African and Caribbean, the Native American and European modes that found port in New Orleans.
It is a music of passion and spirituality, born of oppression and an unrelenting refusal to bow down to outside forces. At it's utmost, the music of the Mardi Gras Indians is a celebration of life, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
The Wild Tchoupitoulas
Originally a Mardi Gras Indian tribe headed by George Landry, "Big Chief Jolly", the classic 1976 recordings of The Wild Tchoupitoulas included members of The Meters, as well as Landry's nephews, The Neville Brothers. Drawing from both the traditional music of the Mardi Gras Indians and New Orleans funk, these songs were essential in initiating an interest in Mardi Gras Indian music, while exposing the culture to a much broader audience. Songs included in Bury the Hatchet are "Meet the Boys on the Battlefront", “Indian Red" and "Big Chief Got a Golden Crown".
Best known for his melodic rural folk piano style, George Winston is also inspired by the great piano tradition of New Orleans: James Booker, Professor Longhair, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Mr Winston scored several songs for Bury the Hatchet, including "The Old Professor", a take on the minor-keyed version of "Big Chief" that Allen Toussaint performed at Professor Longhair's funeral.
Donald Harrison, Jr.
A Big Chief himself, Donald Harrison, Jr. is a master musician whose style spans classic jazz, modern R&B, hip hop and of course the music of the Mardi Gras Indians. Mr. Harrison contributed several songs from his jazz repertoire to the film, including a version of "Big Chief" from the album "Indian Blues", a recording that combines traditional street music with a jazz recording, also featuring Dr. John.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Drawing not only from traditional New Orleans brass music, but also from funk, jazz and even bluegrass, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band found their beginnings in the brass band and Social Aid Pleasure Clubs of the Treme neighborhood in the 1970's. The Dirty Dozen were one of the earliest to take root during the brass band renaissance at this time.
Born in Estonia and living much of his life under Soviet Occupation, Mr. Part's classical works incorporate a minimalist style which he terms "tintinnabuli" (from the Latin, little bells). Mr. Part: "I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played...I build with primitive materials--with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it "tintinnabulation."* Two of Mr.Part's pieces are included in the film, "Fratres" and "Silentium".
Lou Reed said: "He has the voice of an angel and can break your heart." Known as the "Singer's Singer", Mr. Scott's voice is truly one of the most beautiful sounds on earth. His haunting rendition of "Strange Fruit" is included in the film.
Big Chief Alfred Doucette
One of the three main characters in Bury the Hatchet, Big Chief Doucette also has a recording career and can often be found performing at clubs on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. An original of Doucette’s, "Marie Laveau" plays over the car radio while he searches for Indian practice. Later in the film, his version of "Pocky Way" carries on the proud message of street culture through call and response chants.
Baby Dodds Trio
"Chocko Me Feendo Hey" and "My Indian Red", two Mardi Gras Indian songs from a classic 1940's recording "Jazz A' La Creole". Danny Barker on guitar, Haywood Henry on Bass and Johnny Williams and Fred Moore on drums.
Writer of the song "Shotgun Joe", featuring background vocals by then member of the Yellow Pocahontas Victor Harris. Mr. Skipper was also Grand Marshal of the Young Tuxedo Brass Band and leader of the Thunder Blues Band. He passed away December 9, 2009.
Young Guardians of the Flame
Members of the Harrison family (Donald Harrison), this Mardi Gras Indian tribe has a strong focus on community and the importance of educating the children about Indian culture. They have two songs in the film, "Indian Red" and "Big Chief, Where Are You?"
Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles
With The Wild Magnolias during the 1970's, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux eventually left to form the Golden Eagles. He still records and tours widely and several of his tracks are included in Bury the Hatchet. He has recorded and performed with Dr.John, Anders Osborne, Tab Benoit and many others.