NEW ORLEANS – From the moment she walked in the room, Tarriona “Tank” Ball couldn’t stop smiling. Neither could the kids.
New Orleans’ own Tank and the Bangas hosted a “Master Class” at Upturn Arts, but it’s hard to describe what they were teaching.
“These are kids and they recognize when you’re having a good time and when it’s forced. That’s the last thing I want,” Tank said. “You have their attention, what are you going to do with it?”
A group of about 40 children danced, barked like dogs, grew like trees and banged on drums.
Campers saw first-hand how different artists with different styles can come together. They played their instruments their way. They danced their dance. And through the same magic that Tank and the Bangas pull off every time they step on stage, it all came together.
“We’re always doing something with kids, especially with our speciali-TAY, which happens to be making music and poems on the spot,” Tank said. “It’s part of our magic for improv that we have amongst each other.”
Tank and the Bangas came together in 2011. Their sound is definitely from New Orleans, but it’s hard to compare them to anyone else.
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“I definitely couldn’t describe it as a genre, that’s out the question these days,” Tank said. “It’s expanding music with a personality with a character with integrity. So, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s entertainment, it’s something to see for the eyes, something to hear for the ears, something for the spirit.”
The same could be said about Upturn Arts.
Holly Scheib, President of Upturn Arts’ board of directors, described Upturn Arts as “a creative organization that helps kids show themselves and create.”
Founded in 2010, Upturn arts began as a two-week dance and music camp. Today, they provide after school programming along with all-day camps during the summer and holidays.
Tank & the Bangas' appearance wass sponsored by Positive Vibrations Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and encouraging community through the development and preservation of the arts, music, culture and heritage.
“One of the reasons we care so much about this organization is because it approaches things a little differently,” Scheib said. “The teachers are specially trained to be driven by what the child is doing … What that means is the kids are learning how to create. It’s a roadmap on how to become an artist and learn what you’re good at and recognize that in your peers.”
Campers are exposed to theater, dance, music, costuming, painting, yoga and anything else that might flip a switch in their head.
“It’s really creative, you can really open up when you’re shy,” said Kate, a returning camper. “You just dance so much, you’re just out there. You can do stuff out of your comfort zone.”
It might not make much sense if a child goes home and tells their parent’s they want to “be a Banga,” but Tank didn’t know how to put it into words when she was inspired either.
“I think I was at Tulane and there was a concert for Timothy Bloom, Janelle Monae and the band Fun. I fell in love with the band Fun. The energy was crazy, they were constantly switching instruments on stage, I didn’t know one song, but it didn’t matter. I kind of want everyone to feel that way. They aren’t going to know our songs, they aren’t going to know my poems, but I want you to feel this,” Tank said. “That was the moment that I was thinking I had to do this and nothing else, because this is cool as Sh**.”