You are viewing Vol. 11 Issue 5 May 2019
CCU Atheneum: Nationally acclaimed band Ranky Tanky brought its mix of jazz, gospel, Gullah and funk music to the CCU campus for a free, outside performance on Prince Lawn on Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m.
Nationally acclaimed band Ranky Tanky brought its mix of jazz, gospel, Gullah and funk music to the CCU campus for a free, outside performance on Prince Lawn on Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m.

Ranky Tanky gets funky with a free, outdoor concert at CCU

by Sara Sobota
Bookmark and Share

Hurricane Florence might have postponed delayed it, but she can’t stop the funk now.

Nationally acclaimed band Ranky Tanky brought its mix of jazz, gospel, Gullah and funk music to the CCU campus for a free, outside performance on Prince Lawn on Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m. More than 500 people attended, bringing lawn chairs and blankets. It marks the first time in recent history CCU has held a free, outdoor public concert.

The CCU performance, taking place the night before Commencement, was rescheduled from October 2018, when the concert was canceled due to the effects of Hurricane Florence. The original event was scheduled for Wheelwright Auditorium and came with a price tag of $17, but the revised, rescheduled event is open to the public and free of charge.

“When we started considering dates to reschedule the concert, Ranky Tanky happened to have an opening the day before our graduation ceremonies,” said Amy Tully, professor in the Department of Music and associate dean of the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, who is responsible for scheduling cultural arts events. “So, we decided, what better way to celebrate the end of the semester than with an outdoor, family-friendly concert that everyone could enjoy? It’s not often that the timing during the semester works for an outdoor concert, so we jumped at the opportunity.”

In the meantime, the band’s star has only grown brighter over the past six months, as Ranky Tanky performed on NBC’s “Today” show in March 2019, has maintained a busy international tour schedule and recently released a new single titled “Freedom.”

Ranky Tanky released its eponymous debut in October 2017, and within two months, the group had been profiled on NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” and the album had reached the top of the Billboard, iTunes and Amazon jazz charts.

Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton, and Clay Ross first came together as a musical group in 1988 to form a seminal jazz quartet. Then, united after years apart and acquiring a deeper understanding of home, these accomplished artists reconvened in 2017, joined by vocalist Quiana Parler, to form Ranky Tanky.

These South Carolina natives aren’t limited by musical genre but instead explore a range of sound that conveys their roots, their culture and their experience. The band’s soulful sound echoes the shouts of praise houses even as reverberations of a variety of musical genres permeate their music.

The band embraces the sound and essence of the Gullah Geechee culture, born from West African tradition and encompassing language, music, food and spirit. The culture is maintained through descendants of slaves who inhabited the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia as well as coastal regions of North Carolina and Florida. “Ranky Tanky” translates loosely as “work it” or “get funky,” and the musical roots of Charleston provide the “rank” and fertile groups from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown.

“Ranky Tanky brings new life to Gullah Geechee songs once thought lost,” said musicologist Eric Crawford, director of CCU’s Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies and associate professor in the Department of Music.

Quentin Baxter, drummer, is a Grammy-nominated musician and producer and co-principal of the Charleston Jazz Initiative. He is also a founding board member of the Jazz Artists of Charleston and faculty member at the College of Charleston, teaching jazz percussion.

Bassist Kevin Hamilton has performed internationally with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, Houston Person, Gregory Hines, and Rene Marie. Hamilton joined the U.S. Department of State’s OneBeat program in 2012 and holds a BA in music theory and composition from the College of Charleston.

Performing on trumpet and vocals, Charlton Singleton is artistic director and conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, resident big band in Charleston and 20-piece ensemble of musicians from throughout the region. Singleton has toured Europe as well as the United States with a variety of musicians and is an essential figure in promoting the history and legacy of jazz music in South Carolina.

Guitarist and vocalist Clay Ross has released five albums on Ropeadope Records and Motema Music, including the eponymous “Matuto” (meaning “backwoods country hillbilly” in Brazilian Portuguese) with his New York City-based band. Ross has won multiple grants through the U.S. Department of State and has been acclaimed as an innovative bandleader on the international stage.

Quiana Parler, vocalist, earned top placement on “American Idol” and subsequently toured with Clay Aiken for seven years. Parler has performed with Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Miranda Lambert and has worked with producers David Foster, Adam Anders and Phil Ramone. She has appeared on “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and currently tours nationally with her 10-piece band, Quiana Parler & Shiny Disco Ball Band.

Crawford emphasizes the authenticity and tradition of particular techniques and themes conveyed in the band’s music.

“Ranky Tanky’s minimalistic approach to instrumentation in many of their songs recaptures the a cappella singing tradition of Gullah Geechee spirituals long ago, when the only accompaniment was the hand, foot, and on a good day, a stick,” he said. “The ensemble allows us to heart without interference the bent notes of the singer and the low, rhythmic pulse born of West Africa.”


Article Photos