Black History of the Banjo
Looking back in time to discover the banjo's origins brings us to Africa long before slaves were brought to the American continent. My favorite modern story is of a Canadian player, Marc Nerenberg, who visited Senegal in the 1980's and traveled to an extremely remote area where he found a native Black tribesmen frailing a primitive gourd banjo. It's known that slaves brought their music with them and as early as the 1690's an etching was made of their gourd banjos brought to the Caribbeans. The unique short string has been found in African stringed instruments. What was added by American players was an additional string, but not the short 5th string. The frailing method is found in the traditional of Black banjo playing styles. Some are documented through minstrelsy banjo books. Some are on recordings of the last century. Some are spoken about by the descendants who learned them from their family, as pictured in the famous painting here called The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner. This jukebox contains some of the tunes we have had passed down from Black players of the 1800 and 1900's, with more to be added.