African Origins of the Banjo Special (03/27/2008)

 African Origins of the Banjo

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Many people are beginning to realize just how similar the three-stringed African instrument called the akonting is to the American banjo.  The banjos is often thought to be an American instrument, but it actually has deep roots in Africa with a close tie to their tribal traditions.  Over hundreds of years the instrument has gone through some physical changes and styles.  Many early players plucked out old-time fiddle tunes from the British Isles and Canadian provinces.  Many styles developed in America’s Deep South.  Sentimental tunes and early swing have also been popular styles.  Eventually in the United States a totally new style developed called bluegrass.  In this special we explore the history and many styles of the banjo.

Akonting Banjo Symposium was co-sponsored by the Center for Arts & Healthcare, Shands Arts & Medicine program with support from the Digital Worlds Institute, the Center for African Studies, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the City of Gainesville Division of Cultural Affairs.  The ultimate goal was to explore the common ancestry and unique musical and cultural expressions of the new world banjo and its West African ancestors.  Senegalese Akonting player, Sana Ndiaye travelled to Gainesville for the event.  Sana stopped by the WUFT studios along with old-time clawhammer banjo players and teachers Chuck Levy and Ken Perlman.  During this special you’ll hear from all three about their love for of this stringed instrument and what they’ve learned from each other in this unique cultural exchange.

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