Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Support This Film Project Featuring New Orleans Marching Bands: The Whole Gritty City

The New Orleans  marching bands have been a part of not only the city's multi-faceted music history, but African American culture as well. The tradition of the brass bands go back well into the 1800's and have been the backdrop for practically everything New Orleans from parties to Mardi Gras parades to funerals. The brass bands have also been an integral part of college and high school campus life.
Within the New Orleans community the high school brass bands carry on the tradition in the midst of inner city violence and distress in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's disruption. The creators of the independent documentary The Whole Gritty City is currently seeking funding for their film. The production shows the mentors of these students supporting these children by passing down a musical legacy. The importance of the tradition is not only in keeping the music of the brass bands alive through the next generation but also the children's character and spirits strong amidst the dramas they face.
Thanks for visiting. Please click here to help fund this project. Minimum pledge is only $1. They are almost halfway through to the $50,000 needed. All pledges must be received by October 10, 2012.

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Saturday, September 22, 2012

History Of The Zulu Social Aid And Pleasure Club

In the early 1900's a group of African American laborers created a Social or Benevolent Aid Society which eventually came to be called the Zulus. These organizations were set up for African American residents of New Orleans where they could pay dues in order to be able to arrange for funeral costs. These societies were known to offer them the earliest forms of insurance.
The Krewe of Zulu was originally created as a mockery of Rex, the King of Carnival, since African Americans were not included in these parades. The Zulu's first King, William Story, wore ragged clothes and a crown made out of a lard can while carrying a banana stalk scepter. He was accompanied by a quartet, and in 1915 they created their first parade floats.

The most famous King of the Krewe of Zulu was Louis Armstong in 1949, who participated in their first celebrity march.

Still the most popular of all the throws given out during Mardi Gras is the Zulu Coconut, also called the "Golden Nugget". The krewe started handing them out to the crowds around 1910, then in their natural furry state. Some years later they were scraped off and painted.

During the 1960's the krewe lost popularity since during the Civil Rights era the act of the Zulus parading in blackface and grass skirts was seen as demeaning to the African American community.  Many organizations protested against the krewe and their members began to dwindle.

The loyalty of the Zulu members has kept the organization alive. They have grown back in large numbers and are heavily involved in donating their time as well as funds to local schools and charities.

The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club is the second oldest African American krewe and the oldest in the main Carnival Parade. The Krewe of Zulu consists of African American men from all walks of life and professions, from laborers to politicians and is known for it's many community contributions.

Click here to visit this site for more on the history of the Krewe of Zulu.

You can post any questions or comments below. Thanks for visiting!

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Mardi Gras Krewes

A krewe is a group of individuals that participates in Mardi Gras parades, balls and other related activities. This tradition in New Orleans goes back to the 1800's. Krewes that were formed during that time include Rex, Comus and Proteus. These organizations offered businessmen of those times good connections and credentials.
There are currently dozens of krewes and more are created each year. Some krewes are more exclusive, the members mostly include family members and friends. Others are more open to anyone who can pay the fees and agree to participate. Fees for annual krewe membership can run from less than 100 dollars to thousands depending on the how elaborate floats and costumes are. The more expensive fees can also cover outsourcing of the krewe's costume design as well as Mardi Gras parade float construction.

The krewe of the Phunny Phorty Phellows starts off the Carnival Season each year on January 6, the Twelth Night. Although krewes all have different rules, their main purpose is to celebrate Mardi Gras through sponsoring parades and balls. Although it's great to be part of a Mardi Gras parade, it's more to it than just fun and partying.

Click here to read the article Confessions Of A Mardi Gras Krewe Captain

It's amazing to me how the krewes put together all the festive arrangements for Mardi Gras year after year. The work including the planning gets started for the next year soon after the current year's celebrations have ended.

Click here for more information on the history and themes of some of the Mardi Gras Krewes.

Stay tuned for more posts on some of the krewes.

Feel free to leave comments or questions. Thanks for reading!

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Glen David Andrews Continues The Amazing Music Tradition In New Orleans

This is not really a post about Mardi Gras, but in another sense it is. If you know anything at all about New Orleans, you know the music is a big part of the Mardi Gras celebration as well as any of the festivals in the area.

 A few years back, before Hurricane Katrina, I was hanging out in Jackson Square in New Orleans. Jackson Square is located in the famous French Quarter, surrounded by ornate historic buildings. It has long been a haven for artists of every type, particularly musicians and painters.

On this particular day I was fortunate enough to hear the incredible artist Glen Davis Andrews, native of New Orleans who grew up in the Treme section of New Orleans. Treme is known to be one of the oldest as well as one of the most important historic neighborhoods in the country for African American culture.

I purchased an original CD from him during his performance in Jackson Square years ago and it's a special addition to my music collection. Check out some of his more recent releases below as well.

What struck me immediately about Glen David Andrews' performance was it's uniqueness, but also the similarity to the great Louis Armstrong in his trombone playing as well as vocals. His background includes membership in the New Birth Brass Band and Olympia Brass Band. Glen's rendition of "The Saints Go Marching In" was soulful and energetic. You can tell he not only loves the music, but also the traditions of New Orleans.

Check out the video from one of his performances at the Louisiana Music Factory.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to leave comments.

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Friday, September 7, 2012

King Cake, The Traditional Mardi Gras Dessert

Mardi Gras day is the last day of the Carnival Season. It begins on January 6, twelve nights after Christmas, which is referred to as the Catholic's King Day, Three Kings Day or Feast of the Epiphany. 

This is believed to be the day the Three Kings visited Jesus and brought gifts of frankincense and myrrh. In celebration bakeries begin making and selling King Cakes during this time. 

It's like a big cinnamon roll with the Mardi Gras colors, purple, green and gold, sprinkled in sugar on top and an assortment of fillings. A small baby doll is baked inside the cake which represents the baby Jesus.

 People have King Cake Parties, they also share them at work and school. The tradition is that the person who gets the baby in their piece of the King cake has to buy one for the next party.
It'a a popular dessert and thousands of King Cakes are eaten during the holiday season. The King Cake goes back to the 18th century when the French and Spanish brought the tradition to the United States.

Check out the video for a demonstration on how King Cakes are made. Click here to view it now.

Hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave comments.

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Purple, Gold And Green Are The Official Mardi Gras Colors, But What Do They Mean?

During the Mardi Gras Season you'll see the traditional color combination of purple, gold and green practically everywhere in New Orleans. Hotels, restaurants, stores, visitors as well as locals will be decked out with beads, clothing and just about anything else you can think of in the official colors.   
As far as the history of this tradition, it is said that the Krewe of Rex (Rex is the King of Carnival) allowed the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia to select the Mardi Gras Colors in 1872 during the Duke's visit to New Orleans. They also became the official colors of the House of Romanoff.

Purple  - Represents Justice
Green - Represents Faith

Gold - Represents Power

It was during the 1892 Rex Parade that the meaning of the colors was declared through the theme "Symbolism of Colors".
Click here to view this link for more details on Mardi Gras colors.
So make sure when you're in Nawlins during Mardi Gras that you wear the colors, even if it's just a few strands of beads. You'll fit right in!
Thanks for visiting! Feel free to leave comments below.
Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl