March 23, 2005
Black Banjo Conference May Revive Waning Musical Tradition
BOONE – Banjo players, scholars, lovers of the banjo and
of traditional and contemporary African American music and culture
will meet April 7-10 at Appalachian State University for the first
Black Banjo Then and Now Gathering.
The gathering will feature lectures, music jams, workshops and
An opening reception will be held April 7 at the Appalachian Cultural
Museum. Lectures will be held in Plemmons Student Union.
of events, visit http://www.rhisong.com/blackbanjo/schedule.html.
Cost for those attending the entire conference is $90 for nonstudents
and $50 for students. Cost for those attending the gathering on
April 9 and 10 only is $65 for nonstudents and $35 for students.
Anyone with an Appalachian I.D. will be admitted free to the daytime presentations and lectures. Tickets to the April
8 and 9 concerts are $15 for nonstudents and $5 for students.
A limited number of tickets to concerts on April 8 and 9 at Legends
will be available at the door.
To register for the gathering, visit https://ssl1.appstate.edu/confinst/blackbanjo.php.
The conference is sponsored by the online group Black Banjo: Then
and Now (BBT&N) founded last March to create awareness that
banjo playing come out of the African experience, to support contemporary
Black banjo players, to celebrate the banjo's place in Black music
and culture, and to highlight the banjo's role in cultural exchange.
Africans brought the banjo to the Americas. In the mid-19th century,
the instrument became popular among European Americans. African
American banjo playing has continued to this day in traditional,
classic, jazz, blues, and folk styles.
“We want to talk about the banjo from the African American perspective:
how does it relate to our lives in 2005, in terms of making black
music,” said Tony Thomas, one of the organizers of the conference.
Joan Dickerson of the University of Pittsburgh will demonstrate
the classical banjo style popular during the early 20th century.
Cece Conway, a folklorist who teaches at Appalachian, will present
her research on the African-American influences in Appalachian
music. Banjo player and Appalachian studies student Mark Freed
will also participate in the event. Freed leads the Appalachian
Heritage Council at Appalachian and helped organize the conference.
Other participants are New Lost City founder Mike Seeger and African
American fiddler Joe Thompson, Mali musician Cheik Hamala Diabate,
Senegambian akonting player Daniel Jatta, and Etta Baker and Algia
Mae Hinton, who are known for their mastery of Piedmont blues.