Tag Archives: Ranky Tanky

Grammy Awards: The Westport Connections

When Billie Eilish swept the top honors at last night’s Grammy Awards, Westporters — at least, those who are close readers of “06880” — felt a bit of pride.

As reported here in October, the entertainer — whose full name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell — lives in LA, with her brother Finneas, and her parents.

But she has local ties. Her father. Patrick O’Connell, grew up at the top of Compo Hill. A 1975 Staples High School graduate, he was an active member of Staples Players.

Billie Eilish and her father, Patrick O’Connell.

Billie won Grammys for Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and was named Best New Artist. She was nominated for — but did not win — Best Pop Solo Performance.

Finneas earned a Grammy as Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. He worked on 10 albums, including his sister’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

They’re not the only winners with a Westport connection. Ranky Tanky — who celebrate the Gullah slave culture that still lives in South Carolina, combining spirituals, poems, children’s songs and lullabies with fresh, jazz-inflected music — won Best Regional Roots Music Album. for “Good Time.”

Ranky Tanky were among the first artists signed by Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston’s Resilience Music Alliance. Based in Westport, the label empowers musicians who explore, challenge and celebrate the human condition of (you guessed it) resilience.

In 2018, Ranky Tanky played to a packed audience at the Levitt Pavilion.

At the Spoleto Music Festival, Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston presented Ranky Tanky with plaques commemorating the #1 performance of the first release on the Westporters’ label, Resilience Music Alliance.

In addition there were 2 Westport-ish nominees for Best Children’s Album, though neither won. Daniel Tashian (“I Love Rainy Days”) is the son of Barry and Holly Tashian. He fronted the legendary rock band the Remains; she was a noted singer herself. The couple now live, record and write in Nashville, where Daniel grew up.

Kaitlin McGaw (“The Love”) is part of Alphabet Rockers, which “empowers kids with hip-hop.” Her grandparents are Westporters Ed and Kay See.

Interestingly, the O’Connell, Tashian and See families families all lived on Compo Hill. There must be something in the (Old Mill) water.

Here’s one more local connection to the Grammys — though it’s a stretch.

“Oklahoma!” was nominated for Best Musical Theater Album. The composer lived for many years on Hulls Farm Road in Fairfield, just over the line from Westport’s Long Lots Road.

His name: Richard Rodgers.

I’m sure I missed at least one other Westport tie to last night’s Grammys.

Click here for the full list. If you find someone in any category — jazz, blues, bluegrass, folk, reggae, Christian music, whatever — let us know in the “Comments” below.

Ranky Tanky Gets Down At The Levitt

“06880” does not usually promote Levitt Pavilion concerts. There are too many good ones — rock, jazz, military bands, kids’ shows, you name it — and by now, most people know how to find the shows they like.

But the Levitt does not usually showcase Gullah music. So here’s a little promo for this Saturday’s event (August 4, 8 p.m.).

And — because “06880” is “where Westport meets the world” — there’s a great local connection.

Ranky Tanky is the group you’ll want to hear. They celebrate Gullah culture — the unique evolution of West African slaves shipped to the South Carolina coast to work the low country rice plantations.

Because they were so skillful, the slaves were kept together — not separated, like those from other parts of Africa. The culture they created continues today.

Ranky Tanky celebrates Gullah life through spirituals, poems, children’s songs and lullabies, combining them with fresh, jazz-inflected music. It’s special, unique, and well worth seeing and hearing.

Ranky Tanky, in the low country.

The band is hot. Their first album zoomed to #1 on the Billboard, Amazon and iTunes jazz charts. They’ve headlined the Spoleto Music  Festival, played Carnegie Hall and been featured in Downbeat. Terry Gross interviewed them for “Fresh Air.”

But the world would not have heard about Ranky Tanky without the passion of a local couple.

Last year, Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston started Resilience Music Alliance. The goal is to empower artists and creators who explore, challenge and celebrate the human condition of (you guessed it) resilience.

At the Spoleto Music Festival, Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston presented Ranky Tanky with plaques commemorating the #1 performance of the first release on the Westporters’ label, Resilience Music Alliance

Ranky Tanky — the name comes from a Gullah phrase meaning “work it” or “get down” — has performed all over the country, and are booked well into 2019.

During a summer when — thanks to a superb Historical Society exhibit –Westport is  examining its African American past, and our town’s connection to slavery, Saturday’s Levitt Pavilion show is timely and important.

And if all that is not enough to draw you to the Levitt for Ranky Tanky, try this: