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Name April 6, 2013 Instructor Course The Banjo in Black Appalachian Music There is a popular impression, in society, that Appalachia is white, and that the history of Appalachian music is white, having its roots in Europe. Actually, however, Black Appalachian music merged the African banjo with the European fiddle, and this formed the instrumental center of Appalachian music (Mazbrow).


The banjo can have four or five strings and is made from a gourd, used as the sound box, covered with hide or plastic. The instrument developed from African instruments (banjar, bandora, banza) that were introduced by slaves (Banjo). The banjo’s predecessor was played in seventh century Africa (Mazbrow). In the seventeenth century, the instrument consisted of a long pole and attached gourd with three or four strings, made from horsehair, catgut, or hemp plant. At first it was played by West African wandering musicians, but by the eighteenth century was played by slave musicians in the West Indies. Knocking and beating was the style used. Notes began to slide and bend once tuning pegs and a flat board for fingering was added (Banjo). This “banjar” instrument was played in Maryland and Virginia from the mid-eighteenth century. It had a skin head, pegs, and a short thumb string. In Africa, the banjar was played with the talking drums but, in response to a slave uprising in South Carolina, drums and horns became illegal, and the traditional way of playing was adapted to banjar solos (Banjo). The combination of banjo and fiddle, at the core of Appalachian music, was played exclusively by black musicians for about 100 years, before white musicians adopted it (Mazbrow). ...
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