Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shedding season

Bela Fleck is doing great things for the humble banjo. With his trip to Africa to explore the banjo's ancestry and the resulting documentary which his brother Sascha produced, and with his continued concert tours in which he shares the stage with African musicians, Fleck is helping the banjo shed its unfortunate image. Everyone knows of the banjo's close association with racism, thanks to the minstrel show days of yore. How refreshing to those of us who love this instrument, to see it returned to its roots in the African music tradition and see it celebrate its origins.Thanks to Bela and a few African-American pickers like Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor and The Carolina Chocolate Drops, the banjo is shedding its skin.

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