Iko Iko translation

From Iko Iko:

Iko, iko unday
Jockamo feeno ai nané
Jockamo fee nané

What language is that, and what does it mean?

Also: What is the ‘most popular’ version? That is, when one hears the song used in a commercial, film, television show, on the radio, etc., whose version is it likely to be?

The version I’m most familiar with is The Belle Stars’ version.

I’d always just assumed they were in Creole French or Cajun French or whatever the French people in Lousiana speak is called. James Crawford, Jr., the guy who originally sang it in the '50s, was/is an R&B musician from New Orleans. But this MusicMatch biography of him says that “The lack of cash register jingle for the song – usually attributed to a songwriting quadrangle of James Crawford Jr., Barbara Anne Hawkins, Rosa Lee Hawkins, and Joan Marie Johnson – comes from its origins in the traditional music of Africa.” (Nobody gets the royalties from it because it’s a traditional song, basically.) So, it could be any one of thousands of African languages. Of course, the biography goes on to say that it probably evolves out of slave chants in New Orleans and that musicologists really have no idea what it means.

Creole and Cajun are actually two different dialects, both of which are spoken in South Louisiana. Cajun tends to be spoken by those of Canadian descent, particularly in rural areas. Creole is mainly spoken by people of African/European descent, and is a somewhat more urban dialect. This is what you usually hear Voodoo priestesses talk in movies. (IANALinguist but this is what I’ve been able to gather from living my whole life in South Louisiana.)

As for the song itself, I’ve usually heard that it’s just nonsense, not a particular language. The version I’m most familiar with is the one by The Dixie Cups.

Thanks, Lisa.

Great song. My favorite version is by Cyndi Lauper . Discovered it by accident. Dr. John also does a good cover. :slight_smile:

What verses are considered the most common. I’ve heard a zillion of them, but don’t know which ones are the “defaults.”

There’s a fun version on Buckwheat Zydeco’s kids’ CD, Choo Choo Boogaloo, including such verses as:

My li’l boy and your li’l boy
Playing catch with a tomato.
Your boy missed mine’s very best throw,
Made ketchup on a gator!

My grandmaw and your grandmaw,
Sittin’ on the Bayou.
My grandmaw said to your grandmaw,
Let’s make some jambalay-oo.

and of course:

Make up the words to this silly song,
And sing it to your sister.
Rhyme any time, and you can’t go wrong,
Give your sister a real tongue twister!

Hey Now!

Any o fthem have translations for the non-English bit?

Nope. I suspect that it’s untranslatable, as Miss Purl said.

As a fan of the various styles of Cajun/Creole music, I’ve heard those same syllables used in a lot of songs. It seems like if someone doesn’t know what else to say, he throws a “jockamo” in there.

On the other hand, the song Lady Marmalade is quite translatable. :slight_smile:

An earlier thread

[url=“http://www.jass.com/tom/next/indian.html”]I found this:

Miss Purl’s link says, ‘the expression developed into local slang for “you can kiss my ass.”’ If ‘Jokomo’ is a victory cry, then I can see how it could have the meaning.

From EST’s link:

So it seems clear that the song is about two krewes in Mardi Gras competition. But…

The words still have to mean something. Apparently they’re from an Indian dialect? If the tribe could be discovered, the line may still be translatable.

Not necessarily. I can think of at least one example (“I Zimbra” by Talking Heads) of a song whose lyrics are just made-up words. This could be similar.

No problem. This is a pretty good link if you have any further interest in the subject.