Monday, July 23, 2012

Noisician Coalition gets time in the limelight

With homemade instruments, group brings the noise to Gentilly library Saturday

Daniel Lawton 
When Ashley Shabankareh, the trombone player for the New Orleans ska band Local Skank, jams at the Norman Mayer Library in Gentilly this Saturday, she’ll be doing so with a different group and an instrument that’s sure to turn heads. Shabankareh will be playing her “Shabonkahonk,” an old euphonium topped with a megaphone, alongside musicians with other homemade instruments ranging from trash can drums to electrified kazoos.
29Voodoo015.jpgView full sizeThe Noisician Coalition makes noise at the 2011 Voodoo Musical Festival in City Park in New Orleans Friday October, 28, 2011.
The ensemble, called the Noisician Coalition, was founded in 2005 by Matt Vaughn-Black and played its first gig on Lundi Gras that year. Since then, the group has been unleashing its unorthodox sound at Mardi Gras parades, festivals and the occasional public library.
According to Elizabeth Zibilich, an original member of the group and its “minister of disinformation,” the Noisician Coalition is composed of people from all walks of life who come together with the shared goal of making music and having a great time. The group has almost 60 members, but typically between 30 and 40 will show up at a gig, Zibilich said.
In addition to expressing a common love for experimental sounds, she said, the group also functions as a social club: “What I love is that we can get together, laugh and joke around, and then create something that is fun and that makes people dance and then look at us and say, ‘What is that?’ ”
Zibilich added that although bystanders may not always be sure what they are hearing, they’re rarely at a loss for what to do. During this year’s Krewe Of Muses parade, the group’s unique sound had revelers from little kids to old ladies dancing.
David White, a 38-year-old filmmaker and camera operator, has been with the group since 2005 as well. White, who plays a trash-can version of the tom-tom, said he didn’t have any musical experience past junior high band, but that the group is more about being creative than being musically sound.
“It’s kind of a tribute to the brass brands of New Orleans without exactly being traditional,” he said.
According to White, group members often meet up to work on their instruments, which can be as simple as tom-toms made from PVC pipe and trash cans or as ambitious as a metal footlocker that mounts on a dolly and serves as a bass drum.
Many members of the group also have “mega-rockers,” which are giant water jugs filled with scrap metal, White said.
Most of the group’s grooves are spontaneous, though members say they do have a few go-to jams, as well as defined rhythm and horn sections.
White, who helped organize the group’s upcoming gig at the library, said the coalition used to go by the name of the Krewe of Joyful Noise, which explained its mission. “We’re just trying to bring fun to everybody and show people that they can use whatever they want to create joy,” he said.
The group is playing at the library as part of Teen Reading Week, as it did last year as well.
K.G Wilkins, chairwoman of the library’s summer reading program, thinks adolescents will enjoy the Noisician Coalition’s high-energy approach. “We were looking for someone who has appeal to teenagers and a cultural aspect that’s not too high-brow,” she said. “We want something that’s contemporary, and we like the fact that there’s a little movement.”
White said that in addition to their performance, coalition members will talk to teenagers about how they can use their own creativity to make instruments from scratch.
He just hopes that kids don’t get too excited about starting their own noise groups at home. “I can see their parents quickly hating us,” he said.
Daniel Lawton is a contributing writer. He can be reached at

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