Tag Archives: Resilience Music Alliance

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:

Rondi Charleston’s “Resilience”

Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston are a couple with many talents.

Together, they renovated their historic Evergreen Avenue home into one of Westport’s most stunning properties. He’s a successful businessman, who recently helped build a biotech company that transforms the way cancer is treated and cured. She was an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist with ABC News — as well as a noted jazz and opera singer/entertainer/actor.

Last year Steve and Rondi embarked on a new project. They started Resilience Music Alliance, right here in Westport.

It’s a label with a mission.

The goal is to empower artists and creators who explore, challenge and celebrate the human condition of (you guessed it) resilience.

Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston in the wine cellar of their Evergreen Avenue home. The bench comes from Westport Country Playhouse.

One of their first releases was an album by Charleston, South Carolina-based Ranky Tanky. Those gifted musicians reimagine songs from Gullah culture, and infuse them with jazz.

Terry Gross featured them on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” The album zoomed to #1 on the Billboard, Amazon and iTunes jazz charts.

RMA also released “Attitude Manouche” by the Django Festival Allstars. They performed this week at Carnegie Hall, and transfixed the crowd with hot gypsy jazz.

Now Rondi herself is in the news. She’s used her journalism background to create a webcast. “The Resilience Conversations” feature conversations with thought leaders like Senators Cory Booker and Chris Murphy, author Deepak Chopra and astrophysicist Brian Greene.

Plus, she’s just released the aptly named “Resilience.”

Hot House Magazine says she’s carved out

a delightful niche at an intersection of swinging standards, sultry torch songs and R&B-inflected fare. Capable of delivering ballads with a supremely velvet-coated intimacy and lush vibrato, Rondi also possesses the ample chops and vocal technique to deliver fast vocalese lines that enliven uptempo hard bop works.

The magazine adds, “any performance by Rondi is well worth attending.”

That’s great news for Fairfield County residents.

Next Saturday (May 12, 8 p.m.), Rondi performs at Fairfield University’s Quick Center.

She’s headlined the Women In Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center, and performed at Birdland, Blue Note, Joe’s Pub and elsewhere around the country.

Now we can see our talented, resilient neighbor right here in our own back yard.

(Click here for tickets to Rondi Charleston’s Fairfield University performance. Tickets are $15, $10 for Quick Center members.)