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The vibrancy of now, with Ranky Tanky and Lisa Fischer

By Reggie Quinerly

The esteemed composer Gustav Mahler once said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” It’s hard to imagine a better personification of this idea than the musical collaboration of Ranky Tanky and Lisa Fischer. By integrating Fischer’s gospel-infused vocals with Ranky Tanky’s Gullah-based rhythms, they magnify the flame of tradition, injecting fresh vibrancy and relevance into its ongoing narrative. This fusion does not merely dwell on the ashes of the past, but breathes new life into it, creating a powerful amalgam of sounds that bridge historical divides. Their partnership illustrates that tradition thrives not solely on memory, but also through innovations and fusions which rekindle an ancient flame in a contemporary context.

Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, the musical ensemble Ranky Tanky uniquely reflects its ties to the Gullah tradition. From the late seventeenth century, many West African survivors as well as their descendants have populated the Sea Islands off South Carolina and Georgia. Significantly, these communities preserved elements of ancestral practices in their cuisine, linguistic dialects, and textile creation techniques. Following the Civil War, geographic isolation from the mainland allowed them to live relatively undisturbed, fostering unique rhythms, melodies, and customs distinctive from others found throughout North America. Ranky Tanky not only maintains these traditional sounds, but also integrates influences from popular twentieth-century artists. Their improvisational flare and musical interplay underscore their early foundation as jazz ensemble intent on developing a signature approach. Beyond being multiple Grammy Award winners, they have earned recognition from NPR for bringing, “…freshness and uplift to overlooked Americana.” Their dynamic performances serve both as educational platforms and sources of entertainment.

Lisa Fischer, with one of the most captivating voices to grace the music scene in the past four decades, truly stands in a league of her own. Her remarkable versatility and wide-ranging vocal power have made this New York City native an undeniable force in the industry. Throughout her illustrious career, she has masterfully balanced roles, working as a sought-after backup singer for legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, and Tina Turner, while also commanding the stage as a solo performer. Among the highlights of her solo career is the timeless R&B classic, “How Can I Ease the Pain?” which earned her a Grammy award. No matter the stage, Fischer’s dynamic voice, brimming with energy and passion, has enraptured global audiences. Her emotive performance talents took the spotlight in the Oscar-winning documentary, “20 Feet from Stardom,” which centered on the unsung yet profoundly talented voices supporting the industry’s biggest pop acts. The film served as both an introduction to new fans and a testament to the unique, genre-blending style that has long been her distinctive trademark.


Reggie Quinerly Jazz at Naz Virtual Host


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