Shore Fire Media

Cha Wa On NPR's All Things Considered: Grammy Nominees Talk Importance Of New Orleans Street Parade Culture, Mardi Gras Indian Heritage And Fighting Divisiveness Via Funk On New Album 'My People'



New Orleans' Cha Wa have just released their new album 'My People,' and this weekend sat down for an in-depth interview with NPR's All Things Considered to talk about the inspirations and intentions behind the powerful new collection. Listen to the band's conversation with NPR in full here:

Drawing from their hometown New Orleans surroundings, Cha Wa's music on 'My People' takes shape in the sounds of the city's Sunday brass band parades and centuries-old masking culture; particularly the Mardi Gras Indian community of which the band's vocalist Joseph Boudreaux Jr. is a fourth generation member:

"Mardi Gras Indian tradition and culture goes back over 250 years in the city of New Orleans. And it's a culture that derives from men of color wanting to celebrate the Mardi Gras holiday but weren't able to at the time," Boudreaux explained to NPR. "So what they did was they created these elaborate represented the Native Americans that helped the Blacks escape slavery, and they actually helped them throughout the swamps and the bywater to get where they needed to go. So to pay homage to those natives, these men created what we call today Indian suits." 

On 'My People,' Cha Wa founder Joe Gelini adds the group "tapped into that collective unconscious of what it is to live in New Orleans and to see all the nuances and ways that different people of color in the band actually experience racism - what sort of plight we're facing in New Orleans socially and culturally and class-wise and environmentally." These messages have been enthusiastically embraced by Cha Wa's hometown community, with the Times-Picayune praising them for building on "old-school New Orleans funk in the vein of the Meters" while "finding their own identity," and by the local alt-weekly Gambit for "showing the world what they can really do" with a dynamic fusion of New Orleans sounds. 

Cha Wa continue to spread the music and ideas behind 'My People' nationally - including a recent appearance on Good Morning America - not only for those who agree with them but, as Boudreaux explained to NPR, "also to the people who may not be so open...just try to open up your eyes and see the world through the lens of the next person - the person that's next to you, being held down by these different things like systematic oppression...if we don't say anything about it, then no one will actually understand and know that we're with them." 

Listen to 'My People' here: