Ranky Tanky, whose name translates to “work it” or “get funky” in their native Gullah language, travels to Davidson, NC on November 16th as part of the Davidson College Artist Series. The series aims to bring innovative and diverse artistic work to the Davidson College campus and local community, and Ranky Tanky’s visit is no exception. The quintet has been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and their album soared to the top position on the Billboard, iTunes, and Amazon Jazz Charts. They also headlined at the 2018 Spoleto Festival USA to rave reviews.
Charleston, SC based Ranky Tanky performs timeless music of Gullah culture born in the southeastern Sea Island region of the United States. From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the musical roots of Charleston, SC are “rank” and fertile ground from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown.
In advance of their performance at Davidson, we were able to ask a few questions of Clay Ross, guitar and vocals, to learn more about Ranky Tanky and their work.
Q: What are your musical backgrounds? How has your training allowed you to be successful as an artist?
Clay: I started playing the piano when I was three years old and eventually went on to the trumpet. I have had both formal training with private instructors and a college degree in Music Performance, as well as a lot of training by simply listening and paying attention, especially in church!
Q: What makes Gullah Music different from other styles of music?
Clay: Actually we can argue that Gullah Music has been a strong influence to many other styles of music, including Jazz, Blues, County, and Folk. One of the most obvious elements of Gullah is the rhythm and it has been influencing all of those other styles for quite some time.
Q: Why is your work important in helping to preserve Gullah culture?
Clay: I believe that Ranky Tanky’s method of giving some of these songs a new sound that is more contemporary, as well as simply talking about the Gullah culture, is helping. We have been blessed to have traveled to a number of places where Gullah is just not known at all. The fact that we are there, talking about it, singing about it…that is helping!
The Davidson College Artist Series brings Ranky Tanky to Davidson College on Friday, November 16, 2018 for a Gullah singing workshop with students and a public performance. For more information about the concert, click here.