Atlanta, Ga. -- Georgia Tech’s band watches the football action during the second half of their game against Virginia Saturday, November 19, 2016. SPECIAL/Daniel Varnado
Photo: Daniel Varnado
Photo: Daniel Varnado

How Georgia Tech band came to play rap hit ‘Mo Bamba’

The Georgia Tech marching band had a new addition to its playlist for Saturday’s home game against Miami. And the band partly had defensive end Tyler Merriweather to thank.

Beginning with Miami’s first offensive series and later at different points of the game, fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium were treated to the hook of the rap track “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes between snaps. On the Tech sideline, Yellow Jackets players bounced along, clearly pleased with the selection. Perhaps none more so than Merriweather, who tweeted last Monday, “Who do I need to talk so we can get Mo Bamba played on the first defensive series in BDS?”

Within a day, the band’s account tweeted back at Merriweather that it would be learning it at practice on Wednesday and playing it at the game. Band director Chris Moore told the AJC that he had been considering making an addition to the playlist, and students in the band had already suggested Mo Bamba, which is No. 10 on the current Billboard Top 100. Merriweather’s tweet put it over the top, Moore said.

“We’re always happy to support the team and do things that they ask us to do,” said Moore, who has directed the band since 2002. “And the band kids are excited about it. It’s a really popular tune.”

The 350-member band has a game playlist of about 20 songs, including samplings of songs that are played in between Tech’s defensive snaps to keep the energy up in the stadium. Moore said that the band tries to mix in new songs with traditional favorites, weeding out old songs and putting in newer ones.

Arranging and learning a song like Mo Bamba, in which the hook is repeated throughout, doesn’t take as long as you might think.

“Something like this tune, they can learn in two minutes,” Moore said. “There’s not a lot of musical content.”

Other Tech athletes have made suggestions previously, sometimes to Moore, who teaches a music recording and mixing class that Tech athletes such as Josh Okogie, Adam Smith, T.J. Barnes and Iman Shumpert have taken. Former Tech women’s basketball player Dawn Maye once wrote an original composition that the band played.

“Our two main goals are to play music that excites the team and play music that entertains the crowd,” Moore said. “Kind of like the soundtrack for game day.”

One thing about Mo Bamba, a song in homage to the NBA rookie by the same name (he and Sheck Wes grew up together in New York) – it’s not for tender ears. For an audience that included hundreds of children, it was probably best that it was performed by a band without any vocalists.

Said Moore, “We’re not going to teach the kids the words.”

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