Presented by Travel Oregon
July 3 at 5:00 PM on the South Stage
July 3 at 9:00 on the Crossroads Stage
New Orleans brass band-meets-Mardi Gras Indians
In 2021, Cha Wa released its third album, the GRAMMY-nominated My People, as the follow-up to 2018’s GRAMMY-nominated Spyboy. But the true history of the music goes back much further, to the venerable 19th century New Orleans tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians. These were African American men who paraded on the city streets on Fat Tuesday morning and St. Joseph’s Night in celebratory groups, playing handheld percussions like glass bottles, tambourines, and cowbells. They shouted and chanted in a unique dialect that scholars have tried to explain the roots of, but never quite agreed on. Cha Wa is a traditional Mardi Gras Indian shout from which the band took its name; so is “jock-a-mo-fee-nah-nay”, familiar to music fans from the enduring tune “Iko Iko.”
That deep, rhythmic New Orleans sound saturates the band’s music, but Cha Wa reflects more than the city’s history. The band reflects New Orleans today. “We try to take the influence of back in the day, when they were interpreting the music of their time – the deep funk, disco, Afrobeat and tinges of reggae,” said bandleader and drummer Joe Gelini. “And we’re also trying to interpret and write new music that we’re inspired to play that’s relevant to our generation, and our current social environment.”
Cha Wa will host a Crossroads Conversation about Mardi Gras Indians on July 3 at 9:00 PM.