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While the banjo has enjoyed popularity in the South for over 100 years, its history in the world is much longer. The banjo actually originated in Africa, and as Folkways host David Holt explains, slowly migrated to the Southern mountains after the Civil War. The Banjo weaves together the history and technique of the instrument that has made its reputation as an icon of the South to introduce some of its most dedicated players. As the banjo has aged, picking and musical styles have evolved with it, but it still stands as one of the South's most popular musical instruments. Carlie Marion from Elkin, NC, demonstrates the clawhammer style, a picking style popular 100 years ago. David then takes us to Madison, NC, to meet the Senior Band o Madison., a group of three retired men who gather weekly to play some of the older NC folk music. Younger musicians, like Kirk Sutphin, carry on the tradition from fathers or grandfathers and play in some of the fiddlers conventions or with some of the older banjo players. Some of the South's noted musicians like Earl Scruggs and Charlie Poole have legacies that last even now through current generations, as Poole's grandson, who still uses his grandfather's banjo to play in a three-finger picking style that predated bluegrass. Bluegrass, a notable favorite in North Carolina, still rings in North Carolina through players like T.W. Lambert, who talks about why he loves playing it.
So if you love the rhythmic twang of the banjo and are in the mood for a foot-tapping beat, watch The Banjo and learn about how this wonderful instrument originated while meeting some of its most faithful players.
North Carolina Folklife Resources
Has samples of banjo music like "Angeline" and "I Done My Woman Wrong."
A magazine and Web site that has all the latest on bluegrass styles, musicians, concerts and more.
A Web site for people interested in the clawhammer banjo picking style.