Galactic, 'YA-KA-MAY': Noodle Soups And New Orleans Bounce Just in time for Carnival season, the band's new album, YA-KA-MAY, combines the traditional brassy funk and soul of its hometown with an energetic regional dialect of hip-hop. Band members Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore discuss their project.
NPR logo

Galactic: Noodle Soups And New Orleans Bounce

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Galactic: Noodle Soups And New Orleans Bounce

Galactic: Noodle Soups And New Orleans Bounce

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Its carnival time in New Orleans. There is a tradition dating to the 19th century of parades and parties that build to a frenzy in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. Today, for example, the group the Krewes of Pontchartrain, Chocktaw, Caesar and Sparta are scheduled to fill the streets with music and color.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: Just in time for the season, the Nola(ph) band, Galactic, is releasing a new CD called Ya-Ka-May. And the group says this is not your fathers New Orleans record. Producer and horn player Ben Ellman joins us from the studios of WWNO in New Orleans. Ben, welcome.

Mr. BEN ELLMAN (Member, Galactic): Hi, how are you doing? Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: And theres also Galactic drummer Stanton Moore. Stan, hello.

Mr. STANTON MOORE (Drummer, Galactic): Hello, how are you feeling?

CORNISH: Pretty good and to start out I want to ask Ben what exactly is Ya-Ka-May?

Mr. ELLMAN: Well, Ya-Ka-May the title was inspired from a regional soup that you find in a lot of the corner stores down here in New Orleans. It gets pronounced a lot of different ways.

CORNISH: So I dont have to feel terrible about the way Im pronouncing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ELLMAN: Well honestly, most people dont really call it Ya-ka-may. Its really called the Yakamein, kind of like lo mein.


Mr. ELLMAN: People pronounce it different. People call it Ya-ka-meat, Ya-ka-me, Ya-ka-mate. Everyone sort of pronounces it different and it sort of represented something we were looking for with the record which is something that represents the city, kind of as a whole that can, you know, all different sides of it, in a way. So it really was just inspired from this, whats essentially a hangover cure in corner stores. And its really sort of like, Top Ramen with spaghetti.

(Soundbite of song)

GALACTIC (Music Group): (Singing) I should have known better than to run through a ring of fire, ring of fire, uh huh, I should have known better than to shoot with a gun behind. Should have known better to repeat everything I seen, should have known better but now it dont mean a thing. Deep down inside, deep down inside, I got a heart of steel, a heart of steel, Ill take a bet, take a bet, deep down inside, I got a heart of gold.

CORNISH: You got so many amazing New Orleans guest musicians playing with you on this CD, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint, and these are some of the established names of the scene. And I want to ask Stan this question about if this isnt quite your fathers New Orleans record or the style that we best know, how is your approach different?

Mr. MOORE: Well, I think were all coming from a younger generation and the way that we see New Orleans now is different from the way that our parents saw it. Its a different culture, its a different time. So really this record is designed almost to be a night out on the town of seeing music with Galactic, as being hosted by us.

So its almost as if were bringing you along. Hey, come check this out; hey, come check this out. And you can have anything from jazz to contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, lots of different funk and brass band, and even Afro-Cuban, reggae, all kinds avant-garde stuff going on, all kinds of different music. So we all kind of grew up with that.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: There are a lot of great big brassy tunes on here like the song Boe Money which features the legendary Rebirth Brass Band. But you also have this other sort of generation of horn players represented on another track, and I want to play a song called Cineramascope and that has the artist Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry.

(Soundbite of song, Cineramascope)

CORNISH: Ben, can you tell us more about these guys?

Mr. ELLMAN: Yeah, well Trombone Shorty, hes a child prodigy out of New Orleans. Apparently hes been playing since he was in diapers. He plays trombone, he plays trumpet, he plays keyboards, he plays drums. He is a graduate of NOCCA down here, which is the Performing Arts School, and he spent a little time in Lenny Kravitzs band, and hes just representative of just some amazing musicians down here in New Orleans.

He is an unbelievable player and he really grew up in the tradition of New Orleans music and the brass band scene. And his family is - he comes from a musical family here in New Orleans.

CORNISH: Thats really interesting because thats one of the things I noticed when I was doing reporting in New Orleans after the storm is that there were these sort of rankings of musicians, a sort of JV and Varsity, a constant seeding of new talent from one group to another.

Mr. ELLMAN: Yeah.

CORNISH: Does that make sense or

Mr. ELLMAN: Yes.

CORNISH: There just seemed to be a steady stream of great players kind of moving up the ranks in this citys music scene.

Mr. ELLMAN: Yes, it is the generational influences that go on, you know. They have the brass band scene out here works the same way with some of the older brass bands like the Olympia Brass Band who in turn sort of mentor The Dirty Dozen brass band who ended up mentoring the Rebirth Brass Band who end up mentoring the Hot 8 or what have you. And its just this sort of lineage of musicians and musical families and musical education that keeps getting passed down. Its pretty amazing.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ELLMAN: Really what this record is just all about what excites us about the scene in New Orleans at the moment. Its really kind of the things that we appreciate, all the different musicians that we appreciate, whether they are legends or luminaries or newcomers.

CORNISH: Im wondering if you could also then talk about what the inclusion of hip hop and the MCs do specifically for your sound, because some people recognize your audience as a sort of jam band audience and emphasis on musicality and instrumentals.

Mr. ELLMAN: Well, some of the hip hop artists we have on our record represent a sort of a sub genre of hip hop out of New Orleans thats pretty unique, you know. Its called Bounce music down here.

CORNISH: What does it sound like?

Mr. ELLMAN: Its real drum heavy, not necessarily very melodic, very call and response. It kind of reminds me of almost punk rock music, because its very raw, you know, its not like a heavily produced sound that you hear on a lot of like modern hip hop stations and what have you. A lot of Bounce music centered round really a combination of just two beats, you know, sort of put together.

CORNISH: Is there an example of that or example of that influence on one of the tracks of your album.

Mr. ELLMAN: I would say yeah. Theres a track called Double It that we did with Big Frieda where Stanton is definitely playing a reference to what is like the sort of classic Bounce beat.

CORNISH: Do you mind if we play a little bit of that now?

Mr. ELLMAN: Oh, absolutely, please, thank you.

(Soundbite of song, Double It)

Ms. BIG FRIEDA (Musician): (Singing) Frieda (unintelligible)

CORNISH: All right so that was Double It and that was featuring Big

Mr. ELLMAN: Big Frieda, the queen diva.

CORNISH: And shes got a pretty low voice.

Mr. ELLMAN: Well, Big Frieda is a man.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ELLMAN: Big Frieda represents the sort of gay community. Theres sort of a gay Bounce scene in New Orleans actually. They call themselves sissy rappers. I dont even know how to describe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOORE: Yeah, its very energetic and very raw and the whole thing in Bounce music is the dancing that goes with it which is basically people just putting their hands on the ground and shaking their butts in the air.

CORNISH: And bouncing.

Mr. MOORE: And shaking their butts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOORE: Literally, just everybody is got their hands on the ground and theyre just everybody is shaking on each others butts.

Mr. ELLMAN: So grab your ankles.

CORNISH: Yes, that is the energy being brought into the album.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song)

GALACTIC: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

CORNISH: Im speaking with Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore from the group, Galactic. Now this sounds well, related to its a little bit of a distance away from some of the sort of funk and soul groups that influenced your group. And I want to talk about the musicians called The Meters.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: Ive read that this was a big influence for you guys as you formed the band.

Mr. MOORE: Yeah, definitely, and for us as we were coming up we were definitely drawn to absorb and learn as much about the earlier funk stuff that came before us, and really getting into it by getting vintage instruments and trying to get as close to the tones and instruments that those guys were using and really understanding that. But then we also dont want to just replicate that. I mean, theyve already done that. That was their thing that they were doing in the moment and theres no way that you can better that. You cant out-meter The Meters.


Mr. MOORE: So, we learned that as to the best of our ability and now were trying to push it forward and mix it with the things that were inspired by, that are contemporary to us.

(Soundbite of song)

GALACTIC: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

CORNISH: What do you want people to understand about the city when theyre listening to this album, and I ask because, you know, the name Ya-Ka-May and the artwork on it is this sort of collage of images that are sort of very reminiscent of scenes and people from the city? What do you want people to feel when theyre listening to Ya-Ka-May?

Mr. ELLMAN: I think mostly that theres the really strong history in this city and its still continuing, music is still continuing and its like a flowing thing and theres this so many different sides of it and so much great regional music. We wanted to present it at least as like sort of a one flowing idea, sort of a blend. It comes out galactic.

CORNISH: Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore from the group Galactic. Their new CD which comes out Tuesday is called Ya-Ka-May. They joined us from the studios of WWNO in New Orleans. Thanks so much.

Mr. MOORE: Thank you so much (unintelligible) appreciate it.

Mr. ELLMAN: Thank you guys.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: You can hear a couple of cuts from Ya-Ka-May on our Web site, This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon returns next week. Im Audie Cornish.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.