Ranky Tanky is one of those bands I had heard good things about but never seemed to catch here in NYC, but there they were at WOMEX in the Canary Islands, so I made it a point to check in on them. That’s the irony; sometimes you don’t see the domestic bands till you go overseas!
They were playing in one of the larger venues, which was packed with swaying people, and I was hard pressed to find a spot to start shooting. But I realized pretty quickly that my notions of a stable place to shoot from were delusional and perhaps it was better to just forget about the spotlights and how I was getting pushed about, and to just try to capture the energy that the band was projecting —which was terrific.
Ranky Tanky mines the repertoire of the Gullahs, and their enclave in South Carolina. The Gullahs have maintained a distinctive oral tradition with recognizable roots from West Africa, manifested in work songs, children’s songs, and dances. Gullah band member Quiana Parler is a titanic singer, but beyond an awesome set of pipes, she is steeped in a tradition that gives her music an honesty and a grounded quality that is hard to find these days. I wish I had stayed longer to catch some of her “spotlight “ songs, but there were so many other bands to catch, I only had time to grab what I could.
Ringmaster Clay Ross has put together a formidable band, with a rock solid rhythm section (Quentin Baxter on Drums, and Kevin Hamilton on bass), and trumpeter and vocalist Charlton Singleton provides strong visual and musical balance up front. This was all so much fun, all I can say is enjoy this video and catch the band live when you can. And bring friends.