As a long-time banjo lover I’ve known for sometime that the banjo originated in Africa. African people brought the instrument with them to the West. The banjo thrived in the new world. It informed and blended with musical traditions of other nations and arguably laid the foundations for the rich variety of Twentieth Century American music including blues, country, and jazz. The banjo/fiddle combo provides some of the most primal American roots music to be found.
In celebration of my love for the instrument and the music it makes, I’ve been digging deeper to learn more about the history of this most influential instrument. My list of read and yet to be read resources follows. Please share other notable banjo history sources in the comments.
From the Web
These web articles are great introductions to the topic. See the “In Print” section below for in-depth scholarly research on the topic.
- So You Think You Know the Banjo? – The Bitter Southerner
- The Banjo’s Roots Reconsidered – National Public Radio
- A Brief History of the Banjo: America’s Oldest Instrument – Reverb.com
- The (almost) definitive history of gourd banjos – David G. Hyatt
All these link to Amazon, but, you may be able to find these titles at a library.
- That Half Barbaric Twang – Karen Linn
- Picturing the Banjo – Leo G. Mazow
- America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century – Philip F. Gura