The early fall is a great time for music in New Orleans. The heat is starting to break a bit and all of the bands are returning home from their summer tours. This month, one of my favorite local acts—Cha Wa—return from a summer of touring to play sets at both NOLA on Tap and the Gretna Heritage Festival. Cha Wa have really led the pack in innovating the sounds of the Mardi Gras Indian traditions while staying true to their original voice.
On their latest release they have brought the brass band sound of second lines into the mix as well. Their sound is analog, harmonic and massive. I spoke with singer J’Wan Boudreaux and band leader Joe Gelini about their recent release Spyboys and the challenges of innovating within such traditional spaces.
I asked them to speak directly toward the merging of cultures, Joe started: “My feeling is that… [our musicians that are very entrenched in the culture, the street culture of New Orleans [as members of] brass bands, secondline musicians and Mardi Gras Indians, it just seemed like a natural extension of our sound to be able to pivot from just the Mardi Gras Indian chants to more of a brass band street instrumentation.”
J’Wan amplified, “We brought both sounds together, and you can hear how it connects in me, like a unique sound, unique and different from others because others are using electric instruments. We can do shows without even much having to plug up anything, and that’s how it is on the streets. When we’re doing second lines we don’t really have electronics. Just hand percussion and brass instruments, and when we’re doing Mardi Gras Indians it’s just drums and hand percussion. So, it’s two cultures that was bound to get together, but no one ever really did it.”
What they have done is produce a sound that stands firmly in both cultures while generating new synergies between the two. This is what the evolution of New Orleans’ music sounds like. I’ll have an extended version of this interview on our website September 22, there is a lot more insight from Joe and J’Wan to come.
Playlist of mentioned bands available at: http://bit.ly/InTune9-18
Calendar: Must-See Music
Paul Simon takes a bow at the Smoothie King Center.
OHMME experiment at Gasa Gasa.
Neko Case rocks the The Civic.
The Punch Brothers bring folk to The Civic.
Robert Earl Keen brings the family to Tipitina’s.
Jay-Z an Beyoncé blow the roof off the Dome.
Portugal. The Man shred The Sugar Mill.
Saintseneca stomp into Gasa Gasa.
Frankie Cosmos haunts Gasa Gasa.
Drake and Migos light up the Smoothie King Center.
The Decemberists tell stories at The Civic.
Dates are subject to change; email Mike@MyNewOrleans.com or contact him through Twitter @Minima.