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18 July 2017

Post 528: EH LA BAS - LET'S TALK CREOLE PATOIS

There are a few good old songs in our repertoire that date from the days when Creole patois was still widely spoken in Louisiana. I believe it probably is still spoken. I well remember, on my first visit to America about 30 years ago, somewhere near Lafayette meeting a couple of elderly gentlemen who were sheltering from the heat in the shade of a moss-covered oak. One of them was playing an accordion. They were speaking in 'Creole' and I struggled to converse in my almost-forgotten schoolboy French, but we managed to understand each other enough to exchange plenty of thoughts.

If you know a bit of French, you can get some of the meaning; but you notice that most of the rules of French grammar and spelling have gone to the wall, and familiar words are compressed.

The great Humphrey Lyttelton used to play an exciting tune called Ce Mossieu Qui Parle. This was taken to mean 'This man who is speaking'. But, as Humphrey himself said, it might originally have been C'est moi seule qui parle ('It's only me who's speaking.')

The most famous of the tunes our bands still play is Eh La Bas. Potentially, it has plenty of verses. But here is quite enough of the song for most people (with French and English translations):

Eh la bas! Eh la bas! Eh la bas, chèri! Komon sa va?
(Eh la bas! Eh la bas! Eh la bas, chéri. Comment  ça va?)

(Hey there! Hey there! Hey there, m'love! How's things?)

Mo chè kouzen, mo chè kouzin, mo lenme la kizin!

(Mon cher cousin, ma chère cousine, j'aime la cuisine)
(My dear cousin, my dear cousin(ess), I love cooking)

Mo manje plen, mo bwa diven, e sa pa kout ariyen.
(Je mange beaucoup, je bois du vin et ça ne coûte rien.)
(I eat plenty, I drink wine and that costs nothing.)

Ye tchwe kochon, ye tchwe lapen, e mo manje plen.
(On tue cochon, on tue lapin, et je mange beaucoup.)
(They kill a  pig, they kill a rabbit, and I eat till I'm full.)

Ye fe gonmbo, mo manje tro, e sa fe mon malad.
(On fait gumbo, je mange trop et ça me rend malade.)
(They make gumbo, I eat too much and that makes me sick.)

The reason why I am thinking of this topic today is that I enjoyed the performance of this song by the all-ladies Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band at the Abita Springs Buskers Festival in April 2017. Marla Dixon had a really good shot at singing the words (all the above and more, I think!). You can watch the performance again by going to

https://livestream.com/accounts/21714146/events/7258879

Click on the second from the top of the four available videos. You will then need to slide the control button along to 1 hour 40 minutes 30 seconds, which is where the song begins.

You can also enjoy the late great Danny Barker performing the song clearly and with many verses BY CLICKING HERE.