Within the city of New Orleans there exists numerous cultural microcosms. These microcosms historically involve music, and like everything in the Crescent City, they often overlap in ways that are simultaneously strange, mysterious, and beautiful. In many cases there seems to be an almost symbiotic meshing between the the musical cultures of the city, and it starts to feel even natural when you notice that the Mardi Gras Indian culture cross pollinates with funk, jazz and second line music, among others. This is, after all, the beauty of what makes New Orleans such a unique place. Unlike any other place in America, or the world for that matter, there is a natural rhythm in New Orleans that seeps into everything like the summer humidity.
Cross-pollination – or fusion if you want to sound edgy – is at the root of the aesthetic of New Orleans’ own Cha Wa. Billing themselves as a Mardi Gras Indian funk band, Cha Wa will release their debut album, Funk ‘n’ Feathers, on April 1st. The group has been gigging steadily around the city for years, and now they are ready to bring the party to the people outside of their hometown. Aiming to be the bridge between different cultures of the city, Cha Wa succeeds in bringing together funky sounds rooted in the second line parades found across town, percussive polyrhythms, and Mardi Gras Indian chants to make something that is fresh as can be.
We couldn’t be more happy to present a premiere of a new song from Cha Wa called “UPT” right here on Glide Magazine. Those familiar with New Orleans will instantly recognize the song title as a shortened reference to the Uptown neighborhood of the city. The song is the perfect embodiment of what Cha Wa does best, with Mardi Gras Indian chants and a wild brass section going right alongside more of a psychedelic, bluesy guitar jam to make for something totally danceable.
Giving us more insight on the origins of the song, the band says, “‘UPT’ is New Orleans’ slang for Uptown. Locals say it with pride if they live Uptown. This is personified in the rivalry between Downtown and Uptown Mardi Gras Indians, who historically differ in the styles of their singing and of their suits. This rivalry used to be fought with hatchets and fists, but now it’s a nonviolent battle fought with needle & thread. The Chiefs now try to outshine each other by designing and parading the ‘Prettiest Suit’. The lyric ‘Hey don’t go nowhere, Uptown’s on its way’ means Uptown Indians are headed downtown to ‘meet’ the Downtown Mardi Gras Indian tribes on Mardi Gras Day.”
Give a listen to Glide’s premiere of Cha Wa’s “UPT”:
Cha Wa drops Funk ‘n’ Feathers on April 1st. For more music, info and tour dates check out chawaband.com.
Photo by Erika Goldring