“Cha Wa, meaning “We’re coming for ya!” is a slang phrase used by every Mardi Gras Indian tribe.” That line is taken directly from the bio section of world music group Cha Wa’s official website. Thinking about this it should come as no surprise that the New Orleans, LA-based musical collective Cha Wa took its name from that phrase. That is because it is obvious in the nine-member group’s upcoming debut full-length studio recording Funk ‘N’ Feathers that this group is indeed coming for audiences. And it is doing so in the best way possible. From beginning to end the album, which pays tribute to the culture of the Mardi Gras Indian, is loaded with songs that will have listeners on their feet whether they’re in New Orleans celebrating the annual Mardi Gras festival or just celebrating in general. The album combines a handful of covers and traditional Mardi Gras Indian songs for a forty-minute musical experience that is certain to keep listeners engaged. The songs themselves are just the starting point of what makes Funk ‘N’ Feathers such a solid start for Cha Wa. For those that might not know, the Mardi Gras Indians are not Native Americans. Rather, much of what they do is influenced by Native American culture. Keeping this in mind, the songs featured in this record serve as a great starting point in lessons about Mardi Gras Indian culture. To that extent the lessons that could result from hearing the record make another reason for audiences to hear this album. Last but hardly least of note about Funk ‘N’ Feathers is its liner notes. In an age when everybody is all about digital this and digital that the liner notes included in Funk ‘N’ Feathers show the importance of having the physical object versus the digital or along with the digital. They tie directly to the history lesson(s) that could come from listening to the record. In the grand scheme of the record the record’s liner notes tie everything in this record together, making them just as important as any other potential unnamed element of the record. Together with each of the elements (both named and unnamed) Funk ‘N’ Feathers shows in whole to be an album that comes at listeners in the best way possible.
Funk ‘N’ Feathers, the debut full-length studio recording from Cha Wa, is a strong start for the New Orleans, LA-based music collective. This is thanks in large part to the songs that make up the body of the album. The album features ten songs in total are certain to have listeners on their feet whether they are at Mardi Gras or just celebrating in general. They are a mix of traditional Mardi Gras Indian songs and covers. The covers include the James Crawford tune ‘Jock-A-Mo,’ Dr. John’s ‘All On A Mardi Gras Day,’ The Wild Magnolias’ ‘Injuns, Here They Come,’ and ‘Hold Em Joe,’ which was originally made famous by singer Harry Belafonte. The traditional songs include the likes of ‘Ooh Na Nay,’ ‘L’il Liza Jane’ and ‘Tootie Ma.’ Those that were lucky enough to hear Nation Beat’s EP Carnival Caravan will recognize that song because Nation Beat recorded the song with Cha Wa for that record. Cha Wa also included takes on ‘UPT’ and ‘Shallow Water’ as part of the album’s body. While none of the songs featured in this record are necessarily new compositions, they may still be new to some listeners. Keeping that in mind the group’s take on the songs make them a new experience in the bigger picture. In turn they make the album in whole a solid start for Cha Wa. They give hope that Cha Wa will come at audiences with some more music sooner rather than later, and original music at that. With all of this in mind, the songs that make up the body of Funk ‘N’ Feathers collectively make up just one of the ways in which the album proves to be a solid start for Cha Wa. The lessons that could blossom from hearing the featured covers show in another way why this record is a solid start for the group.
The songs that are featured in Cha Wa’s debut album Funk ‘N’ Feathers are in themselves show in themselves why the album is a solid start for the group, which includes some Mardi Gras Indians. The lessons that could stem from taking in the songs are just as important to the album as the songs themselves. For those that don’t know the Mardi Gras Indians are not actually Native Americans. They are Africans who dress in traditional Native American attire during Mardi Gras and gather in “tribes” that vary in size. Because they are not considered actual Native Americans, there is still some controversy to this day about what they do. There are some Native American groups and others that call what they do as racist and offensive toward actual Native Americans. Though, just as many Mardi Gras Indians refute that claim noting that they are in fact descendants of Native Americans. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, the very fact that the songs on this album could move a person to research the rather secretive culture of the Mardi Gras Indians speaks volumes about the importance of the songs. This is especially the case for those that are not so familiar with Cha Wa or Mardi Gras Indians and their culture. The lessons on traditional Mardi Gras Indian music are not the only lessons that could come from listening to this record. There are also lessons on music history in general thanks to the other covers that are included in the record. The covers of ‘All On A Mardi Gras Day,’ ‘Jock-A-Mo,’ ‘Injuns, Here They Come,’ and ‘Hold ‘Em Joe’ could lead to the discovery of artists with whom some listeners might not be so familiar. In turn they could lead said listeners on a whole new musical journey of discovery. Those listeners could in turn learn about Harry Belafonte’s political activism in hearing his music and about Dr. John’s impact on the New Orleans music scene being a New Orleans native. The Wild is a Mardi Gras Indian Tribe that originally recorded ‘Injuns, Here They Come.’ So in learning this listeners could go even deeper and learn the roots of that song, and (circling around here) be influenced to try and research more about the highly secretive Mardi Gras Indians and their culture. Once more it shows how the songs featured on this record are important not just for themselves but for the history and knowledge that they can create just by being featured. To that extent, the lessons that can come from hearing this record are indeed just as important to the record as its songs. Now having noted both of these elements, they are not the only elements that prove to be important to the album and its presentation. Believe it or not the album’s liner notes play just as important of a role in its presentation as the songs themselves or the lessons that could come from discovering the songs.
Both the songs that are featured in Cha Wa’s debut album and the lessons that could potentially come from experiencing them are important to the album and its presentation. While both elements play important parts in the album’s overall presentation they are not the album’s only important elements. Believe it or not the album’s liner notes are just as important to the album as its songs and related lessons. That is because the liner notes tie everything together. When listeners take the physical disc from the tray inside the case, they will note the credits for each of the featured songs. And on the inside cover of the album there is even a note at the bottom paying tribute to the founding fathers of the Mardi Gras Funk movement as well as some of the Mardi Gras Indian “tribes.” This is along with the standard notes of the group’s members, those behind the glass, etc. In an age when people are all about digital everything having the song credits and mention of certain Mardi Gras Indian “tribes” could serve as the spark that starts the fire under people to learn about Mardi Gras Indians and their culture. They could also be the spark to start the fire that leads to lessons about music history. It shows why in a nearly all-digital era, there is still a place for the physical object. The standard rebuttal to that is that people could do their research even without the liner notes. That is a valid argument. But the question is who would be motivated to do the research without that spark? Again it points back to the importance of the liner notes and in the bigger picture the physical album in whole. Staying on that track the album will be available Friday, April 1st. Audiences will agree when they help make the album a reality (via the group’s indiegogo campaign), that the liner notes really are that important. They will agree, too that the lessons that can be learned from reading the liner notes and hearing the songs are just as important when experiencing the album. And of course they will also agree that the songs themselves are central to the album regardless of their familiarity with the songs and their performers. All things considered Funk ‘N’ Feathers shows in the end to be a solid start for Cha Wa and one that really does indeed come at listeners in the best way possible.
Cha Wa’s debut full-length studio recording Funk ‘N’ Feathers is a solid start for the New Orleans, LA-based collective. It is an album that comes at listeners in the best way possible. That is thanks to ten takes on both classic and traditional songs; songs that while some might know, others might not know as well. For those that might not be so familiar with the featured songs and performers, hearing the songs could lead to a whole new musical journey. On another level learning about the performers and the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians could come from hearing the featured compositions. If not for the liner notes included in the album the spark to start learning about all of that might not even be lit. So keeping that in mind, the liner notes, even as much as people take liner notes for granted, are just as important to this record as its featured songs and the new history that listeners could learn in experiencing said songs. All things considered here it should be clear why Funk ‘N’ Feathers is such a strong start for Cha Wa and an album that comes at listeners in the best way possible. One can only hope that in its next album the group will grow even more and show some music of its own as well as some traditional pieces. The group currently has a handful of dates lined up to support its new album beginning with a hometown show at the Blue Nile on April 1st. The group’s current tour schedule can be viewed online now at http://chawaband.com/?page_id=147. More information on Funk ‘N’ Feathers is available online now along with all of the latest news from Cha Wa at:
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