Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Banjo: America's African Instrument

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Banjo: America's African Instrument

Article excerpt

Dubois, Laurent. The Banjo: America's African Instrument. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015, pp.384, 20 halftones, ISBN: 9780674047846.

In the seventeenth century, enslaved people in the Caribbean and North America drew on their memories of varied African musical traditions to construct instruments from carved-out gourds covered with animal skin. Providing a much-needed sense of rootedness, solidarity, and consolation, banjo picking became an essential part of Black plantation life. White musicians took up the banjo in the nineteenth century, when it became the foundation of the minstrel show and began to be produced industrially on a large scale. Even as this instrument found its way into rural white communities, however, the banjo remained central to African American musical performance. …

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