Tank and the Bangas

Tank and the Bangas Breakout Big-Time at Artsplosure

Eclectic R&B-funk-spoken-word group wows arts fest crowd; Its sound is like you’ve never heard before

If you’ve never heard of Tank and the Bangas, you can thank me later, you’re hearing about them now.

Soon, they’ll be in everyone’s Itunes library, in the frequently played category, and on every R&B fan’s playlist. As winners of the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest, the group beat out 6,000 other contestants, and are most assuredly on the rise.

I recently caught them at Artsplosure in Raleigh, N.C. This arts fest is a hard venue to secure and often brings in acts from all over the U.S. proving even more so that this is a group on the precipice of that dive into the deep-end of the stardom pool.

The first thing you see once the entire band is all assembled is hair—the electric blue hair of Tarriona Ball, a.k.a. Tank, as she takes the stage. Tank is the lead singer/poetess for the New Orleans-based group and is accompanied by vocalist Jelly Joseph, a former American Idol contestant, drummer Joshua Johnson, keyboardist Merell Burkett, keyboardist/bassist Norman Spence and saxophonist/flutist Albert Allenback.

When listening to Tank there are segments of hers that you can, when you close your eyes, envision Patti LaBelle. However, when she belts out her own notes that add her unique brand of authenticity, and scatters them in between Missy Elliot-style strands of rap. The band goes with her flow, seeming to compose impromptu beats as they go, yet, you never once doubt they’re not a well-practiced and polished crew.

There are very few other groups out there that are comparable to the group. Tank and the Bangas goes for that Russell-Simmons-Def-Poetry-Jam feel, but have upped the spoken word game by bringing a composition of Julliard-trained instrumentals in the background. Their lyrics range from humorous to subtly serious.

In their song “Human,” Tank delivers the lines “you should never become complacent living life on a shelf, there is a reason for every limit and interaction…” Dipping into her witty side with their song “WalMart,” Tank sings about a girl meeting a cheating man in the aisle at her favorite store “Everything in the store is on sale but everything in the store is also damaged, please shop at your own risk. I saw you on aisle four and new you would go so well with the furniture in my hall…but I didn’t read the warning label that said parts missing.”

If you’ve been missing the kind of true-to-form R&B that Whitney Houston and an earlier Faith Evans used to bring to the musical table, check out Tank and the Bangas. They won’t disappoint and Tank will leave you wondering if you could do with a little more blues to spice up your life.

Written By
Suzanne Crain Miller is a screenwriter, poet, novelist, teacher, reporter and music blogger who resides in Raleigh, N.C. She lives with her husband,...
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