Ranky Tanky bringing the funk to Coastal Carolina University

Ranky Tanky

South Carolinians Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton and Clay Ross first came together as a musical group in 1988 to form a jazz quartet. Now, united by years apart and a deeper understanding of home, these accomplished artists have come together again, joined by vocalist Quiana Parler, to form Ranky Tanky. The band will perform as part of a nationwide tour on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. in Coastal Carolina University’s Wheelwright Auditorium. Tickets are $17, with CCU discounts available.

UPDATE FROM RANKY TANKY: “Our concert on 9/16 at Coastal Carolina in Conway, SC is canceled due to potential effects of Hurricane Florence. It will be rescheduled and all tickets purchased will be honored. Please visit CCU’s online calendar with this and other rescheduled events at coastal.edu/culturalarts.”

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 jazz, gospel, Gullah and funk 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.

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

“With sensitive jazz interpretations of Bessie Jones’ Georgia island spirituals ‘O Death’ and ‘You Better Mind,’ Ranky Tanky effectively captures the slaves’ intimate relationship with death. Though slaves hoped for freedom on earth, they knew that, if prepared, they were assured of their just reward in heaven. 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. The ensemble allows us to hear without interference the bent notes of the singer and the low rhythmic pulse born of West Africa.”

Drummer Quentin Baxter is a Grammy-nominated musician, as well as the producer and co-principal of the Charleston Jazz Initiative. He is also a founding board member of the Jazz Artists of Charleston and a 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 bachelor’s degree 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 and the United States with a variety of musicians, and he 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 acclaim as an innovative bandleader on the international stage.

Vocalist Quiana Parler earned top placement on Season 2 of “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.

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.

More information:


$12 for senior citizens; OLLI members; CCU and HGTC alumni; teenagers; and CCU and HGTC faculty and staff

$5 for children and CCU and HGTC students

Wheelwright Box Office | 843-349-ARTS (2787) or coastal.edu/culturalarts, 108 Spadoni Park Circle; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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