The holiday has at least a solid ton of good music to accompany it. The trouble is, outside of music geeks and people from Louisiana, few know of the depths of the catalog.
Presumably, you know the origins of this (mostly Catholic) tradition of celebrating, cutting loose and indulging in life's fleshly pleasures in the days before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. Lent is when you're supposed to fast and atone and cleanse your soul before Easter. In the mostly Latin parts of the world (southern Europe, the Caribbean, Central and South America), these traditions carry on in a big way, and music has always played a major role.
On our continent, New Orleans can be considered the Northernmost part of the Caribbean, and that Carnivale culture took hold there from its beginnings. New Orleans' musical heritage is a mix of African and European, with all the spice it picked up by way of Cuba, Martinique, Haiti, Trinidad and other Creole cultures. The music accompanying the celebrations has been around since long before commercially recorded music, and still evolves today. Since a large part of Mardi Gras celebrations revolve around parades and dancing, the music reflects that.
A lot of these tunes come from the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, something that could only occur in New Orleans -- but that's another story. The brass bands, the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, the old time R&B acts, the modern funk bands and lots of others have contributed something to the huge amount of Mardi Gras music that, by the way, is only heard on the radio in St. Louis on 88.1 KDHX.
Enjoy this mixtape of some of my favorite Mardi Gras tunes, and have a safe and joyous holiday.
"All on a Mardi Gras Day" - Dr. John
"Beau's Mardi Gras" - Beau Jocque
"Big Chief" - Professor Longhair with Earl King
"Carnival Day" - Dave Bartholomew
"Carnival Time" - Al Johnson
"Do Whatcha Wanna" - The Rebirth Brass Band
"Hey Hey (Indians Comin')" - The Wild Tchoupitoulas
"Indian Red" - Dr. John
"King of the Zulus" - Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
"La Danse de Mardi Gras" - The Balfa Brothers
"Mardi Gras in New Orleans" - Professor Longhair
"Mardi Gras Mambo" - The Hawkettes
"New Suit" - The Wild Magnolias
"Street Parade" - Earl King
"Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing" - The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Tom Waits
This playlist would have included the following songs, but shareable versions proved elusive:
"Chocko Me Feendo Hey" - Danny Barker
"Clean Up (After Mardi Gras)" - Charmaine Neville
"Come Down to New Orleans" - Big Sam's Funky Nation
"Here Dey Come" - The Wild Tchoupitoulas