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Tank and the Bangas to Honor New Orleans Roots at Essence Festival

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Seven years ago, New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas squeezed into a classroom corner and recorded their song “Quick” for National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk contest, an annual search for the “next great undiscovered artist.”

Their video, an exuberant blend of funk, soul, hip-hop, and spoken word, captivated NPR’s judges and won them an appearance on the popular Tiny Desk series. This exposure bolstered their following. Their acclaim continued with a 2020 Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist,” followed by nominations in 2023 and 2024 for “Best Progressive R&B Album” and “Best Global Music Performance.”

This Sunday, Tank and the Bangas will return to New Orleans for one of their most significant performances yet: the main stage of the Essence Festival of Culture. The Essence Festival is the world’s largest celebration of Black women, culture, and communities.

While the band has previously performed at Essence, those were smaller concerts in “super lounges” within the Superdome’s immense corridors, not on the colossal main stage.

Performing on the main stage this year feels both “scary” and “exciting” for lead singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball, who shared her feelings with The Associated Press.

“Those are big shoes to fill, opening up on the festival’s main stage,” Ball said. “We’ve played in the super lounges before, but I’m proud to step up. I’m 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 will also feature other artists tied to New Orleans, including Teedra Moses, Dawn Richard, and HaSizzle.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” Ball said about the upcoming 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 range from go-go music to the old-school vibes of Stevie Wonder. I like to say we’re genre-fluid. We flow between genres.”

Ball hopes this experience will attract new fans.

“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.’”

Norman Spence, the band’s musical director, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the long-running festival but noted that they are no strangers to large crowds and significant events.

“We’ve seen some of those types of crowds at amphitheaters, other large festivals, and Coachella. We get around a little bit,” he said, laughing. “We have a sound that inspires people and makes them self-reflect. To see us have the opportunity to do something so monumental … 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 hopes the performance will leave a lasting impression on attendees.

“I hope they find something they’ve been looking for,” she said. “I hope they hear something and say ‘They changed my world.’”

The band is embarking on a new tour later this month that will take them across the U.S., as well as to England, Poland, and Japan. Ball also shared that they are working on a poetry project expected to be released in October.

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

Source: Associated Press