Words by Adam Costen
If you haven’t heard of Tank and the Bangas yet, you will. On Sunday, November 12th, they performed at the Trinity Centre in Bristol. Ask around if anyone you know went to the gig and they will tell you it was one of the greatest gigs they have ever seen. The group are a hip-hop fusion band from New Orleans and my goodness are they vibrant. They are part of a greater movement that sees poetry rising in the arts and popular culture.
So Who Are They?
The group is fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball on lead vocals with the Bangas including Joshua Johnson on drums and as musical director, Norman Spence on bass and synth keys, Jonathan Johnson on bass, Merell Burkett on keyboard, Joe Johnson on keyboard, Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Kayla Buggage on background vocals, Albert Allenbeck on alto saxophone and flute, and Etienne Stoufflet on tenor saxophone.
Tank began making a name for herself as a slam poet on the US scene winning a national slam in 2012 ( see here ). With a penchant for Disney and anime, they don’t feel like your normal stuffy jazz band but are playful and soulful in the modern way of energy and vibration. This is jazz for the new era.
They made a big splash this year by winning NPR’s (national public radio) Tiny Desk competition (see video above). They were the first unanimous winner. Not only did they win but they showed up and delivered one of the great live performances NPR has seen. As an aside, if you are looking for some new music and a youtube rabbit hole to jump into, check out Tiny Desk. https://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/
Tiny DeskTiny desk features a few other poet-cum-musicians such as Anderson .Paak, Chronixx, Leon Bridges, or Benjamin Clementine; they are fantastic. Or if you are interested in poetry in general just turn on your TV. Perhaps you have seen Mike Garry talk about his childhood. Or maybe you’ve heard Laurie Ogden and Toby Campion share their short poem on friendship. You may have heard of another national slam winner turned musician; Kanye West.Now, this might seem strange, but let’s have a little history lesson. Long before there were books, before there were paintings, before there was music, there was spoken word. People telling stories is the first form of communication and up until about 300 years ago, poetry was considered the top form of artistic expression by philosophers, rulers, and laymen.
It was the technological advancement of oil paints in 1600 that began the encroachment of the visual arts on the supremacy of poetry. But now, as celebrated and successful visual and performing arts become more and more difficult to understand, poets voices are becoming clearer and clearer.
The Big ComebackRecently, there was the first ever international poetry tour of Neil Hilborn. He sold out Colston Hall just this year. He was rocketed to youtube fame with his amazing piece OCD (see here) . If you are looking to see how great poetry can be, check this one out.The rise in poetry and the rise in youtube videos are not disconnected. Technology has always been a major factor in the way people appreciate art and which art. It was in the 70’s and 80’s with Andy Warhol utilizing the potential of modern colour printmaking that visual art reached its peak (arguably it his been in decline since).
Poetry is coming back riding on the back of youtube. And we are lucky enough to see people and groups like Tank and the Bangas who take advantage of it. Right now it is all free as long as you have internet, we’ll see if that lasts. So get your poetry while you can. You can never have too much of people speaking truth.
Tags: Anderson.Paak, Arts, Benjamin Clementine, bristol, bristol poetry, Bristol Trinity Centre, Chronixx, ChuckArts, chucktown, Chucktown magazine, Experimental, Funk, Hip Hop, Leon Bridges, Music, New Orleans, NPR, Poetry, Soul, Tank and the Bangas, Tiny Desk