Monday, February 20, 2023

Bela Fleck - Throw Down Your Heart (2008) - Full Movie

Here is another video/movie about the Banjo. I really enjoy how Bela Fleck goes back to Africa in this video and takes a look at the roots of the instrument. The quote below comes from about page @ Bella Fleck.Com

“Béla Fleck has taken banjo playing to some very unlikely places — not just bluegrass and country and “newgrass,” but also into classical concertos, jazz and a documentary about the banjo’s deep African roots, not to mention the time he toured with throat singers from Tuva. He’s also baffled the Grammy awards, winning for country and jazz in the same year and also winning in pop, world music, classical crossover and, yes, folk. That’s a lot of territory for five strings.”

Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Banjo and Black American Folk Music

The banjo is a musical instrument that has a long and complex history in America. The origins of the banjo can be traced back to West Africa, where instruments with similar features and playing styles were commonly used. During the era of the transatlantic slave trade, African people were forcibly brought to the Americas, including what is now the United States, and brought with them their musical traditions and instruments. 

The early forms of the banjo in America were made from gourds, animal skins, and plant fibers. They were played in African American communities in the Southern United States, and were used for a variety of musical styles, including folk music, gospel music, and spirituals. The earliest known depiction of a banjo in the United States was in an 1807 painting by William Sidney Mount, which showed a black man playing a banjo in a rural setting. 

During the 19th century, the banjo began to be popularized among white Americans, who began to incorporate it into their own musical traditions, including minstrelsy and popular songs. The first banjo manufacturing company was founded in the United States in 1850, and the instrument continued to gain popularity in the decades that followed. By the turn of the 20th century, the banjo had become a popular instrument in jazz and other forms of popular music. 

Despite the banjo's widespread popularity, it has also been subject to racism and prejudice over the years. During the era of minstrelsy, the banjo was often associated with negative stereotypes of African Americans, and was sometimes used to caricature and denigrate black people. However, in the hands of skilled musicians, the banjo has also been used to celebrate and preserve the rich musical traditions of African Americans and other marginalized communities. 

Today, the banjo continues to be a popular instrument in a variety of musical genres, including bluegrass, folk, and country. It is also used by many musicians as a way to connect with and celebrate America's diverse cultural heritage. 

Check out this video by VOX "Why this instrument explains Black American folk music" that outlines the history of the banjo.