You may not know it, but you're living in a Ranky Tanky moment.
It's a funky moment, and totally unexpected.
"Ranky tanky," the Gullah expression, means work it, or get funky.
Ranky Tanky also is the name of a hot new band, five performing artists from Charleston. They worked together for 20 years before becoming overnight sensations with contemporary twists on old music intrinsic to South Carolina's sea islands.
Ranky Tanky, their debut album released in October, hit No. 1 on multiple Billboard charts: twice the No. 1 Jazz album and once the Top Contemporary Jazz album. The album also topped the jazz charts at both iTunes and Amazon.
"We went from zero to 60 real fast," said Clay Ross, who started the band in 2016 after it crowdsourced $14,069.
"This is a Ranky Tanky moment right now," Ross said. "Every day, something new is happening."
This week, the Ranky Tanky moment comes to Hilton Head Island.
Ranky Tanky will play Saturday at the Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by the Historic Mitchelvillle Freedom Park.
"It's definitely aligned with our mission and our goal," Ross said of the festival, which will feature other performers, storytellers, artists, food and games from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 229 Beach City Road.
"Our mission is to popularize a music that is intrinsic to the story of our home state," Ross said. "We definitely take liberties making it contemporary, but we seek to honor and pay tribute to the Gullah culture."
And for the culture, the amazing Ranky Tanky moment seems to be shouting: "We ain't dead yet."
Four of the five band members are descendants of the culture, while Ross, a white guy reared in Anderson, says he is a disciple of it.
Trumpeter, singer and composer Charlton Singleton was reared in Awendaw. His grandfather, called Big Daddy, who lived to be 100, would sit his grandchildren down and sing to them and clap to them and send them into life with a Gullah rhythm that's as distinctive as deviled crab. Singleton has albums and tours of his own, and often plays the Jazz Corner on Hilton Head.
Drummer and composer Quentin Baxter is from Charleston and a Grammy-nominated musician who also plays at the Jazz Corner with the Quentin Baxter Quintet.
Bassist Kevin Hamilton is from the Lowcountry, and like Ross and Baxter, is a graduate of the College of Charleston.
Lead singer Quiana Parler is a native of Harleyville and an "American Idol" alum who started taking opera lessons at age 7. She can rock any house at any time, even with Ranky Tanky's version of "O Death."
They're walking a delicate line now between meeting personal obligations and the new Ranky Tanky demands.
It helps, Ross said, that they've got 20 years together, and they enjoy each other.
"We're all adults," he said. "We're all aware how special this moment is."
Message of hope
These musicians have traveled the world, always hearing indigenous music.
Why not do it for the "Heartland of America" music in their own backyard?
The first album is entirely sourced from field recordings of Gullah songs made many years ago on the sea islands.
Ranky Tanky is influenced by the recordings of Alan Lomax, just like so many other artists from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Ross talked to Terry Gross about the debt they owe Mary Elizabeth "Bessie" Jones of the Georgia sea islands, who had the "foresight, and will and drive to record and document a lot of these songs (and) made a book with Alan Lomax's wife called 'Step It Down' ... And this is where we've revived, and been inspired and gotten a lot of these songs directly from this book."
He said they are indebted to recordings made by Guy Carawan, a musicologist who once lived on Johns Island near Charleston, and is best known for bringing "We Shall Overcome" to the civil rights movement.
"I would say that we seek to entertain and educate, but we're not lecturers or historians or linguists," Ross said. "We're musicians. We're performing artists."
Their shows, and their next album, include more original music, he said.
They feel obligated to do more with the Lowcountry's own music, and take it to as many people as possible.
"I think it is important to preserve these songs, and reflect on history through music," Ross said.
"Beyond that, it's a powerful message. I hear a message of hope, a message of love, a message of resilience.
"These are the kind of things every human being needs."
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale