Get funky with Ranky Tanky at the Vilar’s Underground Sound series this weekend
Ranky Tanky kicks off the Vilar Performing Arts’ Center’s Underground Sound fall concert series. With a bright and fresh sound influenced by jazz, gospel, funk and R&B, the South Carolina-born band comes to Beaver Creek on Saturday, Oct. 5. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
While the band takes influence from African American styles of music, its main goal is to celebrate and illuminate the history and sounds of Gullah. Gullah is a style of folk music that used to be very popular in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida. Slaves brought over from West Africa in the Antebellum period taught their children Gullah music as a way of staying connected to their roots. Those unfamiliar with Gullah might know the classic “Wade in the Water,” which has Gullah roots.
In the absence of drums – which were forbidden by slave-owners who feared drums could be used to conspire against them – slaves would sing and bang walking sticks on the floor, creating the typical a capella-style Gullah sound in the absence of traditional instruments. Translated from the original Gullah language, Gullah means “a people blessed by God” and Ranky Tanky means “work it” or “get funky.”
The members of Ranky Tanky first met at the College of Charleston and formed a jazz quartet in 1998. After going their separate ways for more than 15 years, the members reconnected when Clay Ross –vocalist, guitarist and the only white member in the group – suggested that they play versions of classic Gullah songs.
“Man, I’ve been listening to that since I can remember, since I was, like, 3, you know?,” said Charlton Singleton, the band’s trumpet player in an interview with NPR Music. He grew up hearing the music at church. “It was every day. So, you know, you just – after a while, you figure, you know, everybody knows it or that’s just the norm for me.”
While some of the other band members didn’t grow up completely immersed in Gullah culture, they heard similar tunes at church with similar messages.
“You can hear at least something in one of those songs where, you know, it’s a – the cry. It’s a cry for, you know, help from the Lord or it’s something that has something to do with spirituality,” Singleton said.
Ranky Tanky released an album this year, “Good Time,” which updates classic gospel songs for the 21st century. It starts with “Stand By Me,” (not the Ben E. King song) and adds brass and percussion for create a piece that’s topped jazz charts at Billboard, Amazon and iTunes. The album throws it back with the closing track, “Shoo Lie Loo,” which uses only vocals and percussion as it would have 300 years ago. Concert-goers will likely hear several tracks off the new album, in addition to favorites from 2017’s self-titled album like “That’s Alright” and “Ranky Tanky.”
Colloquially known as the “love for the locals” series, tickets for each Underground Sound show are under $40 for stand-alones, but there’s also a “seven shows & seven drinks for $125” deal, where passholders get one ticket and one drink for each show in the series. The best part is, the tickets are transferrable, so split between a few friends, the cost goes down significantly.
If you go…
What: Ranky Tanky at Underground Sound
When: Saturday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
Cost: $38 for single tickets, or do the 7 shows & 7 drinks for $125 pass.
More information: Visit vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497 for more information.
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