Today’s marching bands are not the “Stars And Stripes Forever” bands of yore; they’re covering a staggering variety of contemporary music from various genres, including hip-hop and R&B. Nowhere is that more clear than in Tallahassee, Florida, home to Florida Agricultural And Mechanical University (FAMU) and its storied band, the Marching 100. That name, incidentally, is out of date, since the group’s membership now regularly exceeds 400. For decades, this crowd-pleasing, much-imitated band has been showing the rest of the country how it’s done, with its innovative arrangements and choreography setting the standard for high school and college ensembles across the nation. That spirit of innovation was in full flower during a recent game between FAMU and Tuskegee, dubbed the 5th Quarter Classic. That day, the Marching 100 gave the appreciative audience its versions of songs by Kanye West, Future, Chance The Rapper, and Rihanna.
Here, for instance, is the Marching 100 doing its brassy rendition of “Father Stretch My Hands” from The Life Of Pablo.
That particular performance elicited a wide range of responses from listeners.
And here is what the Marching 100 did to Rihanna’s steamy “Kiss It Better.” Those who think that sensuality and sousaphones are mutually exclusive should prepare to have their expectations shattered.
The Marching 100’s routine continued to resemble a Spotify playlist when the band covered “March Madness” by Future and “No Problem” by Chance The Rapper.
Keen observers might have noticed a distinct lack of marching during the aforementioned performances. The cover versions noted above were all delivered from the stands. Those who want to see the the Marching 100 perform at full strength are advised to check out this halftime performance from the same game.
Given the history of Florida A&M’s band, this is probably what a lot of bands will be doing in a year or so.