CHA WA – Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Cha Wa is a Grammy-nominated Mardi Gras Indian funk band based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. The name Cha Wa is a slang phrase used by Mardi Gras Indian tribes, meaning “we’re comin’ for ya” or “here we come.” Frontman Joseph Boudreaux Jr. is known for dressing in traditional Mardi Gras Indian clothing during performances, including intricately designed headdresses.

Cha Wa has released three albums, Funk n Feathers in 2016, Spyboy in 2018, and My People in 2021. In 2018, Spyboy received critical acclaim and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category. Cha Wa was nominated in several categories at the 2019 OffBeat Best of the Beat Awards, and in 2021, the band took home an award for Best Music Video at Offbeat’s Best of the Beat Awards for Visible Means of Support (No Justice, No Peace Remix), filmed by Jonathan Isaac Jackson.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Bob Boilen | October 18, 2021 Gathered at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, a hallowed space for Black American music, Cha Wa’s set begins with hand-clapped rhythms and light percussion – then, a burst of horns gives way to “My People,” a song that zeroes in on the disparities between the haves and the have-nots:

“Rich people living in paradise
Poor people under the bridge at night, oh yeah
Most people know what it takes to survive
But my people know how to do it and thrive.”

Cha Wa celebrates Black culture through the medium of rhythm, while also punctuating cultural differences with the hope of opening up the eyes and ears of those ignorant of, or ignoring, those differences. Decked out in a brilliant green feathered “Indian suit,” Joseph Boudreaux Jr. celebrates the roots of Mardi Gras Indian culture.

The concert, filmed during the pandemic, was a challenge for a band so used to the stomping feet and smiling faces of a sweaty New Orleans nightclub. It’s something they thrive on – an audience can give as much energy as it receives, after all – so performing in front of a camera crew without that same energy was a challenge. All that said, the spirit and message of these songs, from their new album My People, come through loud and clear for a not-so Tiny crowd.

“My People”
“Bow Down”
“Morning Glory”

Joseph Boudreaux Jr: lead vocals
Aurélien Barnes: trumpet, vocals
Joe Gelini: drums
Stephen Gladney: saxophone, vocals
Joseph Maize: trombone, vocals
Alexey Marti: percussion
TJ Norris: bass, vocals
Ari Teitel: guitar, vocals
Andriu Yanovski: piano, vocals

Video: New Niveau Productions
Audio: Justin Armstrong, Adam Keil, Chris Finney
Video Editing: Tony Broussard
Piano Tuning: Dave Doremus
Special thanks: The Golden Eagle Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, Ron Rona & Preservation Hall, Single Lock Records

Producer: Bob Boilen
Video Producer: Maia Stern
Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
Tiny Production Team: Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis
Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
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