TVD Recommends: Marina Orchestra at Chickie Wah Wah, 12/3

Let me be the first to introduce to you a great band playing their first show in New Orleans this Thursday night at Chickie Wah Wah. Though new to New Orleans audiences, Marina Orchestra is technically not a new band. They formed in 2010, played at the prestigious Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in 2012, and have intermittently toured around the south.

But the band, which is led by guitarist and vocalist Justin Powers, a recent transplant to New Orleans, has been reformulated with familiar local faces including members of the Asylum Chorus, the Local Skank, and Daria and the Hip Drops. The group has a fresh sound for local ears tired of the same old funk.

The band is an energetic seven-piece featuring shoo-bop, girl group-style backing vocals, blasting trumpet and trombone lines courtesy of Hannah Krieger-Benson and Ashley Shabankareh of the Local Skank, and spiraling guitar lines that remind me of some of the best west African sounds. The rhythm section is rock solid playing a range of tempos and reaching deep into the African diaspora for various Latin, Caribbean, and African beats.

Their press materials reference Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend as inspirations and influence, but to my ears I would add the soca of Arrow, the early highlife sounds of Nigerian superstar King Sunny Ade, and Hugh Masekela’s effervescent South African pop. I even hear a bit of Paul Simon-style songwriting circa the Graceland album time period.

Their music touches on a variety of sounds, but the songs are thoroughly original. This is music to make you groove. Their most recent release, Oceans, takes its title from the image of the bobbing heads of Marina Orchestra’s fans crowding the dance floor. A new 4-song EP entitled “WILDLANDS” is getting set for release in early 2016.

The Jamaican singing trio the Overtakers will open the show and collaborate with Marina Orchestra.

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