ECU Libraries Catalog

African banjo echoes in Appalachia : a study of folk traditions / Cecelia Conway.

Author/creator Conway, Cecelia
Format Book and Print
EditionFirst edition.
Publication InfoKnoxville : University of Tennessee Press, ©1995.
Descriptionxxviii, 394 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Series Publications of the American Folklore Society. New series
Publications of the American Folklore Society. New series (Unnumbered) ^A234280
Contents Introduction: Griots of piedmont North Carolina and portrait of songster Will Baldwin -- Signifying at the crossroads: African-American traditions of the folk banjo -- The ritual of minstrelsy: some were buffoons, but others were apprentices -- Mountain echoes of the African banjo -- The banjo: its changing form, construction, and use -- The transmission of playing methods and tunings -- The banjo song genre: Dink Roberts' man-against-the-law songs -- Garfield: man against the law, but a man with a community -- Conclusion -- Appendix: Reports of black banjo players and their instruments in the United States before 1860.
Abstract Throughout the Upland South, the banjo has become an emblem of white mountain folk, who are generally credited with creating the short-thumb-string banjo, developing its downstroking playing styles and repertory, and spreading its influence to the national consciousness. In this groundbreaking study, however, the author demonstrates that these European Americans borrowed the banjo from African Americans and adapted it to their own musical culture. Like many aspects of the African-American tradition, the influence of black banjo music has been largely unrecorded and nearly forgotten--until now. Drawing in part on interviews with elderly African-American banjo players from the Piedmont--among the last American representatives of an African banjo-playing tradition that spans several centuries--the author reaches beyond the written records to reveal the similarity of pre-blues black banjo lyric patterns, improvisational playing styles, and the accompanying singing and dance movements to traditional West African music performances. The author then shows how Africans had, by the mid-eighteenth century, transformed the lyrical music of the gourd banjo as they dealt with the experience of slavery in America. By the mid-nineteenth century, white southern musicians were learning the banjo playing styles of their African-American mentors and had soon created or popularized a five-string, wooden-rim banjo. Some of these white banjo players remained in the mountain hollows, but others dispersed banjo music to distant musicians and the American public through popular minstrel shows. By the turn of the century, traditional black and white musicians still shared banjo playing, and the author shows that this exchange gave rise to a distinct and complex new genre--the banjo song. Soon, however, black banjo players put down their banjos, set their songs with increasingly assertive commentary to the guitar, and left the banjo and its story to white musicians. But the banjo still echoed at the crossroads between the West African griots, the traveling country guitar bluesmen, the banjo players of the old-time southern string bands, and eventually the bluegrass bands.
Local noteLittle-312711--305131023618X
Bibliography noteIncludes bibliographical references (pages 359-368) and index.
LCCN 94018762
ISBN0870498932 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN0870498924 (cloth : alk. paper)

Available Items

Library Location Call Number Status Item Actions
Music Music Stacks ML3556 .C667 1995 ✔ Available Place Hold