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Reportages Tank and The Bangas at the Salón Rosado de la Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the 2020 International Jazz Plaza Festival. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AMPM. Tank and The Bangas at the Salón Rosado de la Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the 2020 International Jazz Plaza Festival. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AMPM.

This is not funky, this is the end of the world

The stairs of the National Theater —the interior ones, those that lead to offices, dressing rooms, bathrooms, and go down right next to the Avellaneda Hall— are the classic picture of loneliness. They are sad, lacking in personality and, sometimes, too quiet. But it is exactly what I need now, at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday in January: silence. Inside the room, everything is a bit chaotic: people come and go, sound technicians make sure everything is in place while eight men try to make music from trumpets, trombones, a tuba, and a saxophone.

It's the sound check for The Soul Rebels, the brassband that we will see on stage tonight, and I, meanwhile, talk with Tarriona "Tank" Ball, frontwoman by Tank and the Bangas, another lineup brought to us by Getting Funky in Havana, the first Cuban and New Orleans funk festival on the island, organized by Cuba Educational Travel, the Trombone Shorty Foundation and the International Jazz Plaza Festival. The image of us, sitting on those stairs, talking about what it means or doesn't mean to love a city like Havana, about jazz and the ways it has so that many sounds, rhythms and genres come together in it, brings that photo to mind of Bob Dylan with Patti Smith (also on some stairs) somewhere in Greenwich Village, in 1975 —I don't know why, maybe because I'm thinking about Bob Dylan a lot these days.

Before, Marcus Hubbard, trumpeter of The Soul Rebels, had given me the key words to identify what was to come: “The sound of New Orleans comes from the taste of different music; comes out of Africa, the Caribbean, America, but in the form of a great jam. We come from a city where the most famous dish is gumbo, which is made in large pots and where several foods are mixed. For us music is like gumbo and the more flavor it has, the better.” Now, I want Tank to go back on that idea; but, above all, I want you to decipher the sound of that band that conquered everyone in National Public Radio's Tiny Desk contest.

Tank and The Bangas, The Soul Rebels, Trombone Shorty Foundation and Cimafunk are part of the line-up of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM .

Tank and The Bangas, The Soul Rebels, Trombone Shorty Foundation and Cimafunk are part of the line-up of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM .

And where many talk about the symbiosis between rock, funk, storytelling, the spoken word, from the "soulful Disney" of the Bangas, Tank prefers to avoid all kinds of labels and speak of a "spiritual connection". “We mix sounds, but it's not on purpose. They flow, they come out on their own. Because on stage the important thing is to sound good, but, above all, it's to feel good. We want to connect with people and see what happens, making it fun is essential. We make a show honest and truly dynamic.”

Until that moment, when Tank says "dynamic," "funny," "spiritual," "connection," I am not aware of the real meaning of those words. Later, the chips would fall into place.

The Soul Rebels and Cimafunk during the Second Line Conga, during the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM .

The Soul Rebels and Cimafunk during the Second Line Conga, during the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM .

In April 2019, while the magazine Billboard included it among his recommendations and the world fell at the feet of the "new sensation" of Cuban music, Erik Alexander Iglesias landed in New Orleans to celebrate his birthday. the famous club Tipitina´s, refuge of bands like Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Nelville Brothers, among others, welcomed him in a concert where the Soul Rebels, members of Tank and the Bangas and Trombone Shorty. From that exchange, from the improvisation sessions and visits to the neighborhoods of the city of Louis Armstrong, the idea of bringing all the soul and funk of New Orleans to Cuba was born.

Eight months later, Cimafunk walks the streets of Old Havana. Every so often he stops, takes photos with the fans who intercept him despite the crowd that follows the Second Line Conga musicians, who depart from the Plaza del Cristo towards a San Isidro park, singing funeral hymns, typical of the tradition and festivities in the city-cradle of the rhythm and blues. at the beginning it sounds When the Saints Go Marching in, that American gospel song that accompanies the processions, then is heard little liza jane, a theme that has become a mandatory jazz standard and has been performed by Nina Simone for many years.

Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

In the tumult I can identify Julian Gosin (trumpet) of the Soul Rebels, the boys from Trombone Shorty and Albert Allenback (sax and flute) of Tank and the Bangas, who raise their instruments to the sky, while the songs happen. Suddenly some of the scenes of Treme —the series created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer— make sense. All the folklore of the Mardi Gras tribes falls on the Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, of the Golden Eagles —who at first marks the parade route with his costume of patches, feathers, sequins and beads—, and in another chief, dressed in yellow, with a small sword and full of shiny silver pearls.

An Indian Chief of Mardi Gras in the Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza 2020 Festival. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM

An Indian Chief of Mardi Gras in the Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza 2020 Festival. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM

My friend Gladys walks with me. She has traveled 365 kilometers to see Tank and The Bangas and is probably the only Cuban on the Island who knows all their songs, read all their interviews, watched all the concerts on YouTube, and the only one able to tell every member of the band apart.

"Look, Joshua Johnson," she shouts and points to the drummer and musical director of the band, as he walks by our side right at that moment. I look at her; I've been there, at that level of "fanaticism." I smile.

There is a moment when Gladys disappears, she gets lost among those who dance, watch, pass by. I see her hugging Tank in a corner. Tank yells. Gladys is excited. They cry. They hug again. Gladys tells him something like roller coasters "will always be in his heart", in a true and worthy act of the typical fan who dislodges Tank, because of course, who would have thought that someone in this country would know the music of a band that has just been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best New Artist. roller coasters, on the other hand, is a song from the album thinktank, the first recorded by the band, and it speaks of that feeling of falling, of jumping into the abyss over and over again, but also of the courage it takes to return to the ring, to get on the roller coaster, to fall in love, without knowing. Obviously, I find this out later.

Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Second Line Conga, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Now people march with the band. At the end, the conga merges with the second line. It is not known exactly when one ends and the other begins.

Tank and the Bangas concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Tank and the Bangas concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

There is no pretty way to say it: if you are reading this text and you were not at the Tank and the Bangas concert on January 15 at the Cuban Art Factory you will not understand what comes next. First, because you cannot understand what you haven’t lived, at least in this case. Second, because there is no possible way to explain it. Even so, here I go:

On stage Tank and the Bangas is a compact mass of energy. The show that opens with single spaceships, which makes us pay attention to the movements of Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, Kayla Buggage and Tank herself from the extreme left, leads us to stop from time to time in the instrumentalists – each one has his own thing, especially Albert Allenback, al saxophone and flute, which takes the intensity to the highest level, stealing the attention of those who inevitably follow the leader of the lineup. But the show mutates all the time. It is not static.

Albert Allenback, from Tank and The Bangas, at the band's concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Albert Allenback, from Tank and The Bangas, at the band's concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Tank says at times that it's amazing to be here tonight. He says so, and he doesn't know what it means for us —the brotherhood of connoisseurs, of those of us who are in the right place and at the right time that Wednesday— to be here. The FAC Nave 4 stage is one of those places that creates bonds, it goes beyond intimate. Even so, she takes us to the extreme, asking us to raise our hands, to sing with her songs that many of us do not know. does it with Quick, what is this? does it with Boxes and Squares, with Nice Things, with Smoke.Netflix.Chillseriously, what is this?

Tank then has The Queen and the Royal go up to the stageSo do the Soul Rebels. Suddenly we are on the floor, crouched down, the band included, while something sounds chill. In minutes we are jumping with a level of adrenaline that prevents us from sometimes holding our urinations (true story, I did fact checking it already happened to many of us). The connection is complete. After this, the closing: Nirvana by Tank and the Bangas, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Tank and the Bangas. And here we are now: paralyzed, basically not knowing what to do.

There is a picture that describes the trance state this concert send us in: people with their hands on their heads, looking at each other, looking for complicity while asking: is this the best concert of our lives?

Tank and the Bangas concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Tank and the Bangas concert at FAC, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

I came to La Tropical because I was told that Tank and the Bangas would play here. I want to see the faces of those who have no idea of what they are about to face once the show is over. I want to know if they are, or will be, worthy of being among the "initiates." And I want, as a good addict, to repeat.

The international show It starts with the guys from Trombone Shorty Foundation (visibly exhausted after such an intense few days), followed by The Soul Rebels, who do some of the songs from their most recent album, Poetry in Motion, an album where they present a powerful line of artists that includes people like (our already well-known) Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Big Freedia, PJ Morton, Robert Glasper, Branford Marsalis. The band - which has collaborated live with Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Katy Perry, among others - mixes R&B, funk, jazz and hip hop in a presentation full of modern sounds, where each instrument is perfectly integrated and , from time to time, Marcus Hubbard and Julian Gosin leave the trumpet to play front man, rap through. The format of brassband it allows them to be free on stage, play and dance at the same time. The flow It's contagious, especially when that great song plays Greatness.

The Soul Rebels in the Salon Rosado of La Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

The Soul Rebels in the Salon Rosado of La Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

The end of Getting Funky in Havana draws near when Tank and the Bangas take the stage at La Tropical. The set list it is almost the same as Factory, only shorter. The band sounds tremendously good, but it's not the same. How could it be? I think that at FAC we were the just ones, and that here the public is more heterogeneous, the space is larger, the energies flow in various directions, and that, above all, people came to “enjoy” Cimafunk.

The most recent revelation of Cuban music, after midnight, does his thing: relax, Cocinarte, Enough, are some of the hits that sound once more in this place. In the middle of therapy I think that Cimafunk owes us a new song a while ago and, since we're at it, a new album. One that blows our minds, again. It seems that he listens to me and announces The potato, his most recent single, which makes me think that perhaps he is walking in the right direction. before the classic I'm going, The Soul Rebels and Tank and the Bangas accompany him on a song "that doesn't have a name yet" but that for now we know as Hot.

then i do a link to my conversation with Tank days ago on the interior stairs of the Nacional, when he tells me how he met Cimafunk and what he thinks of his music. “We have a theme together, you know. The name is something related to fire, something 'warm', like him. We've never played him live and this is the first time we've done it. It's scary and exciting," says Tank. I feel that time is running out and I ask him about that Grammy nomination, if he saw it coming.

"We're going to win," she says.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I believe her.

Cimafunk, The Soul Rebels and Tank and The Bangas in the Salon Rosado of La Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Cimafunk, The Soul Rebels and Tank and The Bangas in the Salon Rosado of La Tropical, as part of the Getting Funky in Havana event, at the International Jazz Plaza Festival 2020. Photo: Rolo Cabrera / Magazine AM:PM.

Avatar photo Lorena Sánchez journalist before. Editor now. Like Tom Waits, he likes beautiful melodies that tell terrible things. More posts

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