Pin It
.
Favorites

Interview: Cha Wa 

The music of New Orleans band Cha Wa is a party in itself, a joyful collision of brass band music, funk, soul, and Mardi Gras Indian music and culture. The group is led by singer J'Wan Boudreaux and drummer Joe Gelini, both of whom learned from the preeminent musician Monk Boudreaux, Big Chief of the Mardi Gras Indian tribe Golden Eagles and J'Wan's grandfather.  Mardi Gras Indians participate in parades, ceremonies, and other events in honor of their ancestors, who first took part in Mardi Gras festivities as a means of self-expression and celebration.

We're basically bringing a brass band and Mardi Gras Indian parade to the stage," Gelini says, "and we're celebrating all things New Orleans." According to Gelini, there are plenty of New Orleans-based musicians who have been inspired by Mardi Gras Indian music, with its blend of African and Indigenous American elements: Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, The Neville Brothers, Big Freedia, Trombone Shorty, and the late Dr. John, among them. But the musicians of Cha Wa are among the few who are actively bringing Mardi Gras Indian culture with them on tour.

We spoke to Joe Gelini about the historical roots of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, and how it informs the musical identity of Cha Wa. An edited transcript follows.

How did you get involved with Monk Boudreaux and the tradition of Mardi Gras Indian music?

Joe Gelini: I was really fascinated with the Mardi Gras Indians, I really just tried to get as prepared as I could by going back and learning all the old recordings and really kind of study the music from The Wild Magnolias and the Wild Tchoupitoulas. Monk has some great old recordings of him just doing the a cappella chants with the Mardi Gras Indians. He has a whole record from the H&R Bar.

And I just really fell in love with the Indians first, but then I went back and I really tried to educate myself. I did a really deep dive into it. I was just able to start playing drums in Monk's band, and eventually became the musical director of the band.

It seems like Cha Wa's socially-conscious music is a continuation of what's been going on in the Mardi Gras Indian tradition for years.

The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is unique to New Orleans. And in New Orleans during slavery, slaves that escaped would be protected by the Native Americans, because they would take them in and they would have these Maroon communities where they would just sort of hide in plain sight, but they would also intermarry. So there's an actual bloodline that goes all the way back to that. And it really establishes the fact that those two different cultures and races intermarried and they protected each other, because there was definitely a shared oppression that they had together.

With Mardi Gras Indian music, it seems that the role that chant and call-and-response have in the music is quite significant. How does that show up in Cha Wa's music?

Basically, the way that I would describe it is that we're all very much versed in the Mardi Gras Indian call-and-response folk music; the music that is traditionally done in the streets and is a cappella or acoustic. It's without accompaniment from any brass band or any electrical instruments. No guitar, no organ, nothing like that.

We take the approach of modernizing that style of music, with the question-and-answer, but doing it in a more contemporary way that our generation would voice it. In other words, we take the question-and-answer elements, but we put it into a more contemporary song form.

In This Guide...

    Jazz Fest Guide: Three thoughts for the 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival

    The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival is here, and with it, a whirlwind of concerts by national, international, and local musicians. It can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned jazz fest fan.

    Festival Information

    Everything you need to know about tickets, venues, parking, and how to connect with us to make the most of your Jazz Festival experience.

    Feature: Sasha Berliner Quintet

    When 20-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner received the call, letting her know that she'd won the 2019 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award, she couldn't believe it. "It was a surreal moment," Berliner says.

    The Players: Friday, June 21

    Teagan and the Tweeds | teaganandthetweeds.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion - Squeezers Stage (Bluesy rock 'n' roll)

    Profile: Dawn Thomson's Imagine That

    When digging on an artist of two or more disciplines, you have to wonder which one dominates in that artist's heart and head. Dawn Thomson plays it slick and sweet on the guitar.

    The Players: Saturday, June 22

    Ambassadors Jazztet | armyfieldband.com/about/ensembles/jazz-ambassadors 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    Interview: The Honey Smugglers

    Blame it on love. Rochester's The Honey Smugglers is here because it's frontman, Brian MacDonald, fell in love.

    The Players: Sunday, June 23

    Zion Hill Mass Choir 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Gospel)

    Interview: The Willows

    The voices of Krista Deady, Andrea Gregario and Lauren Pedersen are spun gold, blended so well that they come across as one three-tiered voice. The trio known as The Willows makes other vocalists sound like Edith Bunker.

    The Players: Tuesday, June 25

    Soul Passenger | soulpassenger.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Rock)

    The Players: Monday, June 24

    Fred Costello | fredcostello.com 4:30 p.m.| M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (B-3 organ jazz)

    Profile: Harold Mabern

    When Harold Mabern was growing up in Memphis, he had no ambition to become a jazz pianist. "I didn't choose it; it chose me," says Mabern, a self-taught musician.

    Feature: Jeff Goldblum & the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

    When you're known for being chased by dinosaurs and being turning into a giant fly, it's inevitable that you'll have to do the rounds: going on press junkets, shaking babies, kissing hands, and hocking your latest wares -- in this case, a jazz recording. Jeff Goldblum, the actor and Hollywood bon vivant found himself on the Graham Norton Show about a year ago, doing the standard media song-and-dance for the movie "Thor Ragnarok."

    The Players: Wednesday, June 26

    Herb Smith Freedom Trio | herbtrumpet.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    Feature: George Coleman Quartet

    In the early 1960's, after saxophonist George Coleman had earned his way to the top of the jazz world playing with Booker Little, Max Roach and Slide Hampton, he was tapped by Miles Davis to play in one of the greatest quintets in the history of jazz. Coleman recorded four seminal albums with Davis: "Seven Steps to Heaven," "My Funny Valentine, "Four," and "Miles Davis In Europe."

    The Players: Thursday, June 27

    The Buddhahood | thebuddhahood.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Jam-band, world music)

    Profile: Bill Charlap

    You might say pianist Bill Charlap was born to play standards. His father, Moose Charlap, was a Broadway composer best known for his iconic musical "Peter Pan."

    The Players: Friday, June 28

    Kansas Smitty's House Band | kansassmittys.com 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    The Players: Saturday, June 29

    Acoustic Alchemy | acousticalchemy.co.uk 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Smooth jazz)

    Jazz Fest 2019: CITY's Daily Jazz Blogs

    The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival runs from Friday, June 21, through Saturday, June 29, and CITY Newspaper will be out every night of the festival, covering multiple shows. Check back each day for reviews, photos and video of each nights festivities.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Readers also liked…

Browse Listings

Submit an event

This Week's Issue

Cover Story:
Dade takes over
Can the new superintendent change the district's course? read more ...

Tweets @RocCityNews

© 2019 City Newspaper.

Website powered by Foundation.