Tank and the Bangas: Five Essential New Orleans Songs

Tank and the Bangas (photo by Alex Marks, PR)
by Kara Manning | 04/25/2019 | 5:00am

Tank and the Bangas (photo by Alex Marks, PR)

Everything about New Orleans is infused with resilience, joy, and indefatigable moxie. There's no town on earth quite like "The Big Easy" and its unrivaled exuberance — a simmering, red-hot jambalaya of brass and sass — is mirrored in the city's gloriously diverse music: Dixieland jazz, bounce, swamp rock, zydeco, gospel and everything else in between.

One of the most exciting young bands bringing some much-needed New Orleans funk, hip hop, and R&B to the mix is Tank and the Bangas, led by the irrepressible powerhouse Tarriona "Tank" Ball. The band, founded in 2011 and a local club favorite, released their debut, Thinktank, back in 2013. But they shot into national focus after winning NPR's Tiny Desk Concert in 2017 (and the group visited Studio A for a charismatic FUV Live session shortly after that triumph too).

In 2019, everything is going Tank and the Bangas' way. They release their major label debut, Green Balloon, on May 3 via Verve Forecast and earlier this spring, made their TV debut on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" playing the ferociously slinky "Nice Things" from that forthcoming record. They are on tour much of the spring and summer — including a homecoming set at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4.

Tank Ball always has held NOLA close to her heart, no matter where she might travel; her band is a joyful ambassador of the city's resurrection and revival after the devastation of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. When FUV reached out to Ball and asked her to pick her "Five Essential New Orleans Songs," she made specific choices which not only represent the eclectic sounds of every ward (and generation), but her own relationship to her hometown.

Reflecting on one of Tank and the Bangas' own songs, the jazzy, mostly spoken-word "New Orleans," a track available on their 2019 concert album, Live Vibes 2, she wrote: "I remember sitting in the car alone listening to our song crying so hard because this song reminded me that New Orleans would never be the same. The memories I made here will have to live there because of the storm. But this song reminds me that I’m lucky that I experienced the city for the tragedy that changed it forever."

Tank and the Bangas: Five Essential New Orleans Songs

Louis Armstrong featuring Jack Teagarden, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" (written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter), The Standard Oil Sessions (recorded in 1950, released 2017)
Who would I be if I didn’t start off with this song?  Being on the road a lot, I truly feel this way and I often hum it to myself when I’m homesick. I lean on this song a lot because I really believe New Orleans is this special: the food, riding my bike on the river, and being around familiar faces and good energy.

Big Tymers, "Still Fly," Hood Rich (2002)
They made it dope to be broke, Rich, 'hood, New Orleans, and dreamers . They rapped about a luxury ghetto life that we all related to and we were proud to be from the same village as them. This song dominated my year when it came out!

PJ Morton, "My Superstar," Emotions (2005)
Ummn, it was the first song I ever heard by PJ. This song really stuck with me because it reminded me that I could be from New Orleans and carve my own lane and make music that resonates with who I am as a person and a artist. PJ was an original.

Ghetto Twiinz, "Mamma’s Hurting," In That Water (1997)
If we’re talking about essential New Orleans songs, I mean come on! In my world there is not a girl I know from New Orleans that won’t recite every single lyric! They were such storytellers and we anticipated every story they told.

Chocolate Milk, "Groove City," Milky Way (1979)
One of my favorite songs, period. I’ll never forget spending my birthday in Amsterdam and listening to this song reminiscing about home. Everything about it feels good! The harmony, that familiarity, the lead voice. I like the way it makes me feel.

- Tarriona "Tank" Ball
April 2019

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