Cha Wa at the Clyfford Still Museum show preview 

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Cha Wa @ The Clyfford Still Museum, Friday, June 21, 5:30 p.m., 1250 Bannock St., Denver, all-ages, free, clyffordstillmuseum.org

In its most stripped-down form, Mardi Gras Indian music consisted mostly of vocal chants accompanied by tambourines, cowbells and whatever else sounded good when you hit it. That began to change in the 1970s, as a music that was born in the streets and social clubs of New Orleans found its way into recording studios, embracing a more melodic style that drew upon blues, soul and reggae.

Over the past few years, Cha Wa have become the standard bearers for that musical tradition. The group is led by J’Wan Boudreaux, who is the 22-year-old grandson of the legendary Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. Cha Wa’s sophomore album
Spyboy earned considerable critical acclaim last year, along with a Grammy nomination in the Best Regional Roots Music category. Produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman, it’s a beguiling mix of second-line, brass-band, jam-band and funk influences. In addition to performing originals like “Visible Means of Support” — which chronicles Big Chief Boudreaux’s early encounters with racial profiling — the incendiary live act serves up renditions of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and Mardi Gras Indian classics like “Golden Crown” and “My Indian Red.”

Granted, none of the above is a guarantee of commercial success, but there’s no denying that J’Wan and his crew are doing their ancestors proud.


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