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This ‘Tank’ never runs on empty!

31st May 2016   ·   0 Comments

Tarriona 'Tank' Ball of Tank and the Bangas

Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball of Tank and the Bangas

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Tank and the Bangas have been all over the New Orleans music scene of late. Energetically led by vocalist Tank, born Tarriona Ball, the group was onboard at the recent Jazz at the Park Festival as well as at the pop-up, outdoor benefit concert in support of S. Rampart Street’s historic Eagle Saloon. On Saturday the group, which has been gaining numerous accolades, performs on Saturday, June 4, 2016, at the New Orleans Oyster Festival. The two-day event (June 4 and June 5) event is held along the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park.

“We’ve been playing a lot – that’s what it feels like especially at home,” says Tank, 27, a vivacious woman who first gained recognition as a slam poet. “The stage was literally shaking,” she continues remembering the special evening by the Eagle Saloon that featured trombonist Big Sam Williams and bassist/vocalist George Porter.

To describe Tank as colorful could certainly be considered an understatement. Her flamboyant look changes at every performance. Sometimes she dresses like a school girl complete with a plaid, pleated skirt and glasses and on other occasions her attire is more sophisticated though always highly imaginative. Most of her wardrobe, she explains, comes from a nearby thrift store owned by two sisters. All of that without even mentioning Tank’s big, exotic hairdos.

“When I was young, my sister told me I dressed weird,” says Tank, who apparently always had a stylistic flair. She gained further fashion inspiration from the young people she met at poetry slams who hailed from New York and Philadelphia.

“They were more eccentric than myself so I was inspired to just go all out,” she says with a laugh. “It’s like, it’s cool to be that way.”

Fronting the Bangas, a band who boasts a rhythm section plus a saxophone and women backup vocalists, Tank is a drama queen in the best sense of the description – she’s the star of the show. (“Not off stage! Not offstage!” she vigorously clarifies.) Her pure energy drives the group performing an eclectic, very modern mix of genres including soul, spoken word, R&B and jazz on primarily, intriguing original material.

Impressively, Tank and the Bangas had young and old alike dancing and singing along at its dynamic Jazz in the Park show much in the way Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews appeals to folks of all ages. Tank seemed surprised by this observation.

“That’s pretty cool,” she offers. “I saw my sixth-grade teacher in the audience and she watched me for awhile but surely she walked off. You can’t get them all,” she adds with a laugh.

Tank’s musical aim, however, is to try to reach the younger generation.

“Teenagers and kids are the ones who carry the music later on,” she notes. “If you can be at the core of their music influence it pretty much stays there. I think it’s the best way to get to their minds. I’ll never forget those who influenced me.”

Tank definitely delivers positive messages and vibrations. The band’s popular tune “The Rhythm of Life,” which she wrote on the way to a recording session in New York, almost has a reggae flavor in its rhythm and simple, straight-forward lyrics. “It’s a song about what the majority of people go through every day,” Tank explains, “like you go to school, you tie your shoes.”

Audience participation plays a big part when Tank and the Bangas get going on “The Brady’s” with the crowd coming in enthusiastically on the refrain, “Hey, hey, hey!” Before that section was added to the tune, which is, she says, about a “crazy bride who wants to live a perfect life” as portrayed by the TV family on the sitcom, “The Brady Bunch,” it didn’t create that much excitement. Now, with the catchy call-and-response element, it’s a crowd favorite.

“We’re always trying to go so much further,” Tank says. “It’s about elevating yourself and giving the audience a different experience. So you always want to inspire them in some way and let them know we’re growing together.”

The word inspire often sprinkles Tank’s conversation. It finds its roots in her family life. She grew up in the church and her grandfather, aunt and two uncles were all pastors. “Being around a family like that is like being in church all of the time,” she says. “I would see the way they would use their voices to inspire people.”

“Work that word, say the things that you want and go get it,” Tank philosophically suggests. “It’s literally waiting for you. We’re on a planet in the middle of nowhere that’s laying out there. That lets you know everything is possible. No one’s fallen off the earth yet. We’ve been keepin’ it together.”

Tank’s big, shiny eyes dance with excitement when she stands center stage. She’s full of brains and bravado but most of all a ton of talent and soul.

“I watch myself on videos and I say, “Oh Lord, you’re a wild girl,’” she relates laughing. “I don’t know if I would like me – though sometimes I would.”

Brassy Start to Wednesdays at the Point

On June 1, the Soul Rebels kick off the 2016 edition of Wednesdays at the Point concert series presented in Algiers next to the levee. Now this innovative brass/hip hop band, formed in 1991 and led by drummer Lumar LeBlanc, is out there touring so much it’s a real treat to get to hear them outdoors in such a wonderful setting and for free. It’s almost impossible to say the name Soul Rebels without its now iconic hit, “Let Your Mind Be Free,” which remains an anthem on the streets, playing in one’s head. The weekly shows run through July 6, 2016 with music starting at 5:30. Hopping on the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry makes getting there a fun trip.

This article originally published in the May 30, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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