Tomorrow night, GRAMMY-nominated New Orleans brass band-meets-Mardi Gras Indian outfit Cha Wa brings their funk-laced beats and bass-heavy sousaphone to Levitt Pavilion Westport—just days before they head to Sheboygan, Wis., to close out the 2019 Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series next Thursday night! Audiences are in for a vibrant taste of a New Orleans street party. Led by the warm, gritty vocals of lead singer J’Wan Boudreaux, Cha Wa infuses reggae, gospel, funk and old-school R&B into the booming sound of a traditional New Orleans brass band to create high-energy, eclectic fusions that honor the city’s rich Mardi Gras Indian heritage. The band’s name itself, which loosely translates to “we’re comin’ for ya,” is a traditional Mardi Gras Indian rallying cry that’s heard throughout the streets of New Orleans each Mardi Gras.
Anecdotally, the colorful and curious tradition of Mardi Gras Indians dates back to the 1880s and is said to be rooted in a friendship that dates back to slavery, when Native Americans provided shelter to slaves escaping to freedom. While the exact origins of this cultural phenomenon are unclear, most—including the Backstreet Cultural Museum—credit the shared empathy between Southern Louisiana’s African Americans and Native Americans as the origin of this rich local musical and visual legacy.
Clad in authentic garb, Cha Wa’s elaborate attire gives audiences a chance to experience the intricate beadwork, stitching, jewel placements and feather arrangements that Mardi Gras Indians create to unveil on the final day of Mardi Gras—a full day of singing, dancing, drumming, chanting and engaging in playful rivalries with the city’s 50+ other tribes. Cha Wa transports audiences to the streets of New Orleans with their soaring horn lines and festive, infectious chants.
The title of the group’s 2018 GRAMMY-nominated album, Spyboy is inspired by Boudreaux’s actual role in the Golden Eagles tribe, led by his grandfather Big Chief Monk Boudreaux—a renowned global ambassador of Mardi Gras Indian culture (who makes a guest appearance on the album). The result is a raw, genre-pushing source of pride. “We put everything we had—emotionally, physically, financially, every blood, sweat and tear—into this recording, into making it as great as possible,” explained Cha Wa drummer and founder Joe Gelini in a recent Billboard interview. “I think it’s a really good representation of all of us…and I’m proud of that.” Give it a listen below and if you’re in Westport, Ct. or Sheboygan, Wis., grab your dancing shoes and get ready to experience a vibrant, one-of-a-kind New Orleans street party!