Cajun Mardi Gras: In Disguise
Music; Ambience: Revelry, Mardi Gras ambience, distant music, revelry, Mardi Gras song
In south Louisiana’s Cajun Mardi Gras, the participants are in disguise, so that their neighbors won’t recognize them. They call themselves Mardi Gras, and they wear a colorful costume that look like a pajama with fringes all over it, a pointed dunce cap and a screen mask. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Every year since he was a little boy, Potic Rider has been a Mardi Gras in Basile, Louisiana.
“It was just handed down from one generation to the next. The making of the hats and the costumes, and the way we act and how we sing everything is basically handed down from the old country.”
While in disguise, the Mardi Gras beg for food and money from their neighbors in order to hold a feast that night, which the whole community is invited to. And with an experienced Mardi Gras, the act of begging becomes an improvised art form.
“When I put a mask on I’m not Potic Rider anymore, I’m a Mardi Gras. What I’m going to try to show you right now, the way I would talk and beg to people, you know. When we’d walk up to a person we’d stick out our hand and start tapping. . .ooooohhhh, donnez-moi un petite cinq sous (a few pennies) si vous plait, si vous plait
So what we’re doing is telling people give me a little nickel or something, and if you do we’ll sing for you or something. You know you keep begging after them like that. And you’re crouched down low and you get on your hands and knees. I’ve spit on their shoes and shined it with my sleeve just to get more nickels, more dollars. Whatever it took. The change of voice is the most important thing, you know. Because alot of people will recognize you by your voice. So its that ooooohhhhhh, the hollering, un petite poule gras (a little fat hen). That’s how you disguise your voice.”
We’ll hear more about Cajun Mardi Gras in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.