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The Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) announced this month that Richard Jones-Bamman has won the SEM 2018 Klaus P. Wachsmann Prize for Advanced and Critical Essays in Organology award for his book Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World (University of Illinois, 2017).
"The artisans who build banjos for old-time music stand at an unusual crossroads -- asked to meet to modern musician's needs while retaining the nostalgic qualities so fundamental to the banjo's sound and mystique."
In Building New Banjos for an Old Time World, Richard Jones-Bamman explores the relationship between historic banjos and banjo builders, modern Old Time players, and luthiers today. The photo-illustrated book features interviews both makers and musicians to uncover how they work together to create instruments. Read a profile of Jones-Bamman on the SEM's website.
Jones-Bamman's interviews many banjo-builders and repairers who regularly attend the Banjo Gathering, including Pete Ross, Kevin Enoch, Jim Hartel, and Bob Smakula, as well as offering perspectives from players like Greg Adams, Bob Carlin, and Mary Marxer. At this year's Banjo Gathering, he will be moderating two panels of banjo builders, exploring these questions and more.
The rest of the world dropped away from our consciousness, replaced totally by banjos, banjo music, banjo players, banjo builders and how banjos became “America’s Instrument.”
For those who missed the 20th Anniversary Banjo Gathering in Bristol, Virginia/ Tennessee, we are happy to share the concert courtesy of Radio Bristol here on our blog. Enjoy!
From the project website: "Since 2002, The Banjo Project has produced and collected over 300 hours of original video, with interviews and performances by banjoists in all styles: Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Mike Seeger, Taj Mahal, Sonny Osborne, Cynthia Sayers, Don Vappie and many others, as well as expert commentary from banjo builders, historians and researchers. Meanwhile, over the past decade, there has been a quiet explosion of cultural history research, critical reappraisal, and musical reinvention, including producer Marc Fields’ PBS documentary Give Me the Banjo (narrated by Steve Martin, national broadcast 2011)."
"Marc knew from the start that the banjo’s long and contested history could not be fully represented in a standalone TV documentary. The challenge: how to leverage the new media technologies, our archive of original media and the wealth of recent scholarship to provide cultural context for the instrument, its diverse music and players, and make it accessible to the widest possible audience? We spent the past seven years developing other media platforms, finally arriving at an innovative online media platform we’re calling a digital museum."
In 2016, Brooks Masten presented about his history as a banjo builder and his influences and personal style. If you missed it, he was recently interviewed on the Get Up in the Cool Old Time Music podcast and tells his story with some great tunes tucked in between.
Long time attendee and banjo maker Pete Ross was interviewed with Kristina Gaddy on the Hey Baltimore podcast about the early history of the banjo and the instrument's connections to Baltimore, Maryland.
The knowledge and research that are behind this podcast are a result of the last 20 years of the Banjo Gathering. Much of the research into the West African connections to the banjo have been done by participants Ulf Jagfors, Schlomo Pestcoe, and Bob Carlin. Pete Ross, Bob Winans, and Greg Adams did an extensive presentation about banjo maker William E. Boucher, which transformed into an exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. And in recent years, Pete and Kristina have presented on Baltimore banjo maker Levi Brown and early American banjos.
The life and music of renowned Appalachian-style fiddler & folklorist Alan Jabbour (1942-2017) will be celebrated at the Library Congress on Thursday, January 18, 2018 from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM.
The event features a reception (with food and drink), brief presentations on Alan’s accomplishments and legacy by Carl Fleishhauer, Stephen Wade, and Ken Perlman, and a jam session (led by Ken) devoted to the well-known old-time tunes that Alan collected from Henry Reed and other Appalachian fiddlers.
At the 2017 Banjo Gathering, CW Bayer presented the wild history of banjos out west. His book The Strychnine Banjo, follows the accounts of Charlet Roades and Jake Wallace's exploits from the 1850s to about 1910. Below is an except, describing Jake Wallace playing banjo to accompany Lotta Crabtree in Virginia City in 1863.
During 1862 and early 1863, Jake Wallace played with some of the major San Francisco minstrels stars at McGuire’s Opera House and the Eureka Music Hall. During the summer of 1863, in Virginia City at the Virginia Melodeon on C Street, he accompanied Lotta Crabtree as she sang a Mart Taylor lyric, “Bound for the Land of Washoe:"
Bound For The Land Of Washoe (Words: probably Mart Taylor, 1863)
Founded in 1859 and the site of a huge gold and silver lode, Virginia City teemed with young men and was a wild place. One night a local fireman, Louis La Page, shot out the footlights as the performers ran out the back of the stage. Then, one of the stagehands stole all their instruments:
This is a forum for previous years' and on-going banjo research projects. If you are interested in submitting something for the blog, please use the "Contact" page!