Magazine article New African

Home of the Banjo: An Intrepid Gambian Researcher Has Traced the Banjo to Its Roots in Western Gambia. (around Africa: The Gambia)

Magazine article New African

Home of the Banjo: An Intrepid Gambian Researcher Has Traced the Banjo to Its Roots in Western Gambia. (around Africa: The Gambia)

Article excerpt

The banjo musical instrument is believed to be the root of all modern music--pop, rock, reggae, blues and jazz--but nobody has yet "properly" traced its roots notwithstanding the fact that it has been a subject of intense research, especially in America. But now, Daniel Jarta, a Gambian researcher based in Sweden, believes he has solved the riddle. According to him, the Akonting lute is nor only of Senegambian extraction, if not exclusively Mandinarian, but also the prototype of the Southern American gourd, Banjo. Mandinari is a village situated near Lamin in the Western Division of The Gambia. The word Banjo, Jarta stares, originates from the Mandika word "bangoe", from where the name of the Gambian capital, Banjul, was derived. Incidentally, the Akonting lute is known and played by a very few people in The Gambia, prominent among them being Sagan Sambo, the oldest Akonting player in Mandinari. Challenged by the inability of celebrated Banjo researchers to pin down its origins, Jatta set out 14 years ago to laboriously explore the history of the Banjo, with the backing of the International Cultural Centre, Stockholm. Given the lack of good reference materials, Jatta could but rely on Jola elders who had immense knowledge of the history of the Akonting, including his own father. He was even surprised to learn that many Gambians had never set their eyes on the Akonting.

Two years ago, Jatta came up with what was adjudged as the most comprehensive research on the Banjo. With the help of Swedish Banjo historian, collector and researcher, Ulf Jagfors, he successfully presented his findings to the Banjo community in Boston and at a concert staged at the University of Virginia. Jatta and Jagfors explained that the Banjo was the number one American folk instrument, but Americans did nor want to acknowledge its roots. …

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