Grammy-nominated Big Chief, making a big impact on New Orleans music scene, marches for Mardi Gras

“The guy’s been around and has made it. He’s been around the streets and also the highest realms of culture.”
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 2:04 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 3:11 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The return of Mardi Gras to New Orleans ushered in the return of one of the most impactful traditions for Mardi Gras Indians: marching on Mardi Gras Day. Big Chief Joseph Pierre “Monk” Boudreaux had the chance to celebrate the tradition, as well as his first Grammy nomination at 80 years old.

The Big Chief of the Golden Eagles has made his mark on the New Orleans music scene, and now globally.

Boudreaux has been a Mardi Gras Indian practically since birth, said his longtime friend Michelle Longino.

Longino, along with dozens of other family and friends, came to Big Chief Monk’s home in Uptown for what she said is an incredible spiritual experience.

“It is the highlight of the whole year,” said David Kunian, Curator of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. “They come out and sing these songs that have been passed down for 100 years at least.”

Boudreaux emerged from his home, speaking to his group before they marched toward downtown.

While they marched, they chanted and sang songs that have been passed through the generations.

“You can feel the ancestors of everyone coming up and being here with them to take to the streets and be on the streets. These are their streets,” Kunian said.

“This whole thing is a very spiritual experience, especially at the start,” Longino said.

The suits Boudreaux and others wore are handmade, with his granddaughter Natche Boudreaux even making her own.

They’re vibrant colors, from orange to yellow to blue and purple, and hard work goes into them.

“You will see the patches and the beading and the way the suits are put together. He’s a true artist, and he is a wise man. The guy’s been around,” Kunian said. “It’s art and it’s engineering too. The guy’s made it. He’s been around the streets and also the highest realms of culture.”

“All the kids and the grandkids, it’s all coming through and you can see it leading into the future,” Kunian added.

Natche, a Mardi Gras Indian herself, said her grandfather holds a special place in her heart and the heart of others.

“My grandpa is my idol for me. I love, everything about my grandpa,” she said. “For me he’s never wrong, he’s right. And when he says something he means it, and I just take his advice. I always, I’m just gonna keep taking it.”

With deep musical roots, Boudreaux’s album, Bloodstains and Teardrops, is being considered for the Grammy award in the Best Regional Roots Music Album.

The Grammy’s will take place on Sunday, April 3.

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