Photo by Gabriel Perez
After graduating from Berklee College of Music, drummer Joe Gelini moved to New Orleans and had something of a musical conversion. “I was hooked,” he says, describing the Mardi Gras Indians march during a Mardi Gras parade. “It’s a spiritual thing. It’s more than the music.” He soon teamed up with J’Wan Boudreaux, a grandson of one of the most revered Mardi Gras Indians. Together they formed Cha Wa, a band that carries this specific New Orleans cultural tradition around the world.
No one really knows where the Mardi Gras Indians originally came from, but the “tribes” perfectly reflect the complexity of New Orleans, mashing together Native American, African, and Caribbean influences. Cha Wa takes this a step further on its debut album, Funk ‘N’ Feathers, adding a modern psychedelic haze to the sound thanks to producer and Galactic member Ben Ellman. But the live show gets closer to that spiritual place that Gelini first fell in love with. Cha Wa was all funk and feathers in our Studio 1A, reaching back into history and dusting off “Li’l Liza Jane” for a Crescent City workout.