July 14th, 2024

Tank and the Bangas to pay tribute to their New Orleans roots at Essence Festival

By Chevel Johnson Rodrigue, The Associated Press on July 6, 2024.

FILE - Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank and The Bangas performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, April 28, 2023, at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. On Sunday, July 7, 2024, Tank and the Bangas will bring its fusion of funk, soul, hip hop, rock and spoken word to the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Seven years ago, New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas squeezed into the corner of a classroom and recorded themselves performing their song “Quick,” for National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk contest, the nonprofit’s annual search for the “next great undiscovered artist.”

Their video – a lively mix of funk, soul, hip-hop and spoken word – wowed NPR’s judges and won them an appearance on NPR’s popular, stripped-down Tiny Desk series, helping grow their loyal fanbase. A 2020 Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist,” followed, as did 2023 and 2024 Grammy nominations for “Best Progressive R&B Album” and “Best Global Music Performance,” respectively.

On Sunday, Tank and the Bangas will return to their home city for one of their biggest performances yet: the main stage of the Essence Festival of Culture, the world’s largest celebration of Black women, culture and communities.

The group has performed at Essence before, but those were miniconcerts in “super lounges,” created inside the Superdome’s massive corridors, not the mammoth stage on the Superdome’s floor.

The fact that the group will get to play on the main stage this year is “scary” and “exciting,” lead singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball told The Associated Press.

“Those are big shoes to fill, opening up on the festival’s main stage,” Ball said. “We played in the super lounges in the past but I’m proud to step up. I’m just doing it scared. But don’t get me wrong, I’m always nervous for the special ones. I’m excited about doing this because it’s home. That’s a big deal.”

The set also will infuse flavor from other artists with ties to New Orleans, including Teedra Moses, Dawn Richard and HaSizzle.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” Ball said of the performance. “Soulful. Poetic. We’re tailoring it for that. We’ve got HaSizzle, Teedra Moses, Dawn Richard. We’re bringing all these aspects to the stage all of whom have helped bring the city back to musical life.”

Ball describes their sound as “when Disney meets the ghetto.”

“We’re flavorful,” she said. “We can go anywhere. Our influences are from go-go music to the old-school vibes of Stevie Wonder. I like to say we’re genre-fluid. We flow between genres,” she said.

Ball hopes the experience will draw new fans into their world.

“Essence is that platform for us to connect with our people,” she said. “I hope we leave them with a wow and a feeling of “˜I need to follow this,'” she said.

Norman Spence, the band’s musical director, said the group is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the long-running festival experience but notes they’re not entirely new to such a space.

“We’ve seen some of those types of crowds, at amphitheaters, other large festivals, at Coachella. We get around a little bit,” he said, laughing. “We have a sound that inspires people and makes people self-reflect. To see us have the opportunity to do something so monumental though … there’s a lot of gratitude there. I just can’t wait to get it done. Meanwhile, I’m just going to embrace it all and just shine.”

Ball said she’s hoping the performance will “be impactful” for attendees.

“I hope they find something that they’ve been listening for,” she said. “I hope they hear something and say “˜They changed my world.'”

The band starts a new tour later this month that will take them across the U.S., as well as to England, Poland and Japan. Ball said they’re also working on a poetry project that should drop in October.

“We’re gearing up for an amazing year,” she said.

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