The soundtrack of a traditional Cajun Mardi Gras

Posted at 7:33 AM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 08:33:28-05

Whether celebrating Mardi Gras at a parade or at a courir, revelers will have their fill of food, drink and music.

One particular song will serve as the soundtrack for courirs on the Cajun prairie throughout the day.

It's become known as the Mardi Gras Song, or as it was recorded by the Balfa Brothers, the Danse De Mardi Gras.

Every Mardi Gras season the signature fiddles serenade the story of the chicken chase and the quest for gumbo ingredients.

The music plays, rightfully so, on loop on the likes of KRVS and KBON all Mardi Gras.

"A lot of documentary film makers and folklorists for some reason went to Mamou, and Eunice, Church Point, Basile that area and they documented the Mardi Gras and that was the song that was playing there," says Cajun Folklorist Dr. Barry Ancelet.

While the Voyage of the Capitane may be the most famous, the most popular version is by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.

"They did it on an album, and when it's requested and people want to dance that's the version they want to hear," says KBON DJ Todd Ortego.

It's become the soundtrack as the Mardi Gras rolls from house to house.

But the history of the song is deeper, its roots stretching further than the Balfa Brothers, with each small community having their own unique songs.

From raucous drinking songs centered around an empty bottle, to the call and response of the Basile chants.

Many of them spring from old french drinking songs with similar characteristics.

The music of Mardi Gras is as varying and colorful as the courir costumes themselves, representing the very best of Mardi Gras

"Mardi Gras is a great example of community solidarity expression," says Ancelet. "It's a way of saying we need to stick together, we need to celebrate together."

And helping to keep these unique customs and traditions both of Cajuns and Creoles in the forefront

"It turned out to be a great way of saying we want to continue to be who we are. It was a great expression of culture identity," says Ancelet.