One of the marked successes of this year’s Festival of Voice is its programming of eclectic international artists. Not only does this bring an exciting variety of global voices to Cardiff, it also draws in a cosmopolitan audience, that enlivens the festival vibe and creates a progressive, multicultural sense of celebration.
This certainly was the case in the peachy acquisition of Tank and The Bangas – a group lauded for their lively fusion of funk, soul, hip hop, rock and spoken word – who came to prominence after winning the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. It took them five planes to get to Cardiff, front woman Tarriona “Tank” Ball, teasingly tells us, and on bassist Jonathan Johnson’s Birthday to boot, so audience participation was demanded from the off and the crowd frankly, wasn’t prepared for anything less.
Both lead vocalist Tank and supporting singer Jelly (Anjelika Joseph) are forces to be reckoned with, playfully doling out the lyrics in a double-act touching on comedy. They know how to tickle the microphone, how to play the full range of voice, dancing effortlessly from husky Gospel harmonies, through rapid fire rap into bird-like chirps and hoots. They take inspiration from a variety of genres, from rock (they roll out a giddy yet gutsy version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit), folk, jazz (expectedly as they hail from New Orleans) but also from more surprising sources, like anime, the latter feeding into their infectious playfulness and joy. They do not conform to an easy stereotype.
But this isn’t just a spectacle of voice. The musicianship on display here is immense, forceful stuff, and the band are in no way outshone by the showmanship of their leading ladies. Rather, they sport spontaneously with one another over the resonant bass, punchy rhythms, scintillating chords and searing brass (an astonishing performance by Albert Allenback that took even Tank by surprise it seems). It is nonetheless serious stuff, with lyrics about love, God, and rollercoasters.
The crowd whooped, howled and ‘got on the floor’ with thankful abandon and were left, after the end of the set, happily sweat-soaked and eager for a second encore. Tank and the Bangas are now on a Europe-wide tour that will no doubt swell the ranks of admirers of their unique and life-affirming style.
Tank and the Bangas appeared in the Weston Studio as part of the Festival of Voice on Friday 8th June 2018.