Ranky Tanky is a five-piece band that formed three years ago in Charleston, South Carolina. That geography is highly relevant: The band’s music is rooted in the regional culture of the Gullah, descendants of West African slaves who lived on isolated sea islands along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas.
Some of Ranky Tanky’s members were raised in the Gullah community, and now they’re incorporating that culture’s centuries-old musical tradition into their own chart-topping jazz-influenced hits.
After performing a few songs live in Studio 360, the band members break things down for Kurt Andersen and explain what makes this music “Gullah.”
“You have to remember that in the beginning of all this, there was no bass. There was no guitar,” says Ranky Tanky trumpeter Charlton Singleton. “You basically just had people that were singing, clapping their hands, stomping their feet. That’s the heartbeat of it all, that distinctive Gullah rhythm.”
Ranky Tanky’s new album, Good Time, is out now, and you can catch the group on tour across America through the spring. And if you’re in New York City, they will be playing at the Blue Note Jazz Club on Nov. 5 and 6.
This podcast was produced by Studio 360’s Zoë Saunders.
Studio 360 is a smart and surprising guide to what’s happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt introduces the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy—so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life. Produced in association with Slate.