Tiny Desk Winner Shines: On Tank and the Bangas

by Ayanna Jacobs-El

Each year NPR hosts their Tiny Desk Contest. This contest is a part of their live Tiny Desk Concert series that is recorded at All Songs Considered Host Bob Boilen’s desk. The contest is open to any unsigned, American band or individual who is over the age of 21. The prize for winning the contest is a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR, immense exposure, and a sponsored multi-city tour. This year’s winner, which was unanimously chosen out of more than 6,000 entries, was Tank and the Bangas.

Tank and the Bangas hail from New Orleans, Louisiana and are filled with spunk, personality, and a whole lot of talent! Their sound fuses R&B, hip-hop, funk, and jazz with poetic flows and soulful singing. The group is comprised of Tarriona Tank Ball (lead vocals), Jelly Joseph (background vocals), Merell Burkett Jr. (keys), Norman Spence II (keys), Joshua Johnson (drums), Jonathan Johnson (bass), and Albert Allenback (saxophone).

Credit: NPR

In the group’s winning entry video they performed their song “Quick”. “Quick” is a funky and fun song that incorporates childhood rhymes with descriptions of a night out that leads to some bad decisions. I could feel the chemistry and see the joy in all the band members faces as they performed and let their true personalities shine. Tank’s theatrical mannerisms blended with her effortless rapping and singing draws the listener in and hypes up the overall mood of the band.
Next up for the group was their Tiny Desk Concert at NPR’s headquarters. The 7-piece band, dressed in bright pastels and eccentric patterns, piled behind Bob Boilen’s desk to a packed audience of NPR employees. They started out their set with their jazzy song “Boxes And Squares”. The band set a tight pocket for Tank and Jelly to vibe back and forth with the humorous and lighthearted lyrics of the song.

Credit: Niki Walker/NPR

Next, they performed their winning song “Quick” with full energy and a funky groove that might have even made James Brown jealous. I found it particularly cute and funny that Tank used a wooden fork and spoon as percussion and how Jelly casually pulled out a gong to hit a few times throughout the song.

The final song of their set was an emotional and sentimental song called “Rollercoasters” which paid homage to their hometown of New Orleans. In this song, Tank was able to showcase her beautiful singing voice and poetic talents. The band laid down a lighter and more intimate sound that served as a perfect backdrop for the meaningful lyrics.

Tank and the Bangas are definitely on their way to the top. It’s rare to see a group that has the ability to openly show their emotions and create a sound that is uniquely their own, all while having the time of their lives and putting on a fantastic show. Be sure to check out more of their music and if they will be coming to a city near you on their upcoming tour be sure to grab a ticket!


About the Author

Ayanna Jacobs-El
Ayanna Jacobs-El is a composer, producer, songwriter, singer, alto and baritone saxophonist, and DJ dual majoring in Contemporary Writing and Production and Professional Music with a minor in Writing for TV and New Media. You can learn more about Ayanna and hear her music by visiting www.ayannajacobsel.com.