History of the Banjo Video Series

George Gibson 2Randy Wilson produced this series of seven short videos exploring the history of the banjo in America, narrated by George Gibson. The series was supported by the Kentucky Arts Council.  Besides being well-researched, these videos are rich with historic context, including paintings and photos from the periods discussed. And of course music.  Enjoy!

History of the Banjo #1 – Creole Banjo https://youtu.be/7DDTXkvWIlk
* Randy and George offer a fascinating look at the banjo’s origins in the Middle East and Africa.  Which of the many banjo-like instruments still played in Africa is our banjo’s earliest ancestor?

History of the Banjo #2 – Early America https://youtu.be/A3n5QB-ZYkE
* This segment concerns early banjo in America, how the banjo began as a southern instrument played by both blacks and whites, the codification of black enslavement, and the tide of banjo playing receding to the mountains of Appalachia.

History of the Banjo #3 – Minstrelsy https://youtu.be/uj73NGh53tg
* The black face minstrels made a mockery of black banjo history that lasted over a hundred years.  It basically made the banjo primarily a white instrument.  George Gibson chronicles its emergence with white banjoists and dancers, the dancers before the revolutionary era and the banjoists after 1840.  It also popularized the banjo as an instrument- all over the world.

History of the Banjo #4 – The Banjo Goes North https://youtu.be/sjKRj4f5bow
* Demand for banjos exploded with the popularity of the minstrel movement.  Banjo manufacturing popped up in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York. Publishing companies wanted to disseminate banjo books teaching banjo methods.  George Gibson explores what happened to banjo playing when subjected to standardized teaching methods.

History of the Banjo #5 – Later 1800’s Banjo https://youtu.be/wkGUcQEu0j0
* Here, we look at the banjo in the later half of the 1800s- the heyday of the banjo- all kinds of banjos for performers, male and female, for glee clubs and all kinds of groups or individuals across the nation.

History of the Banjo #6 – Women Banjo Players https://youtu.be/s5MjlXkWyhs
* This one concerns the hundreds of women across the country that took up the banjo in the latter 1800s and early 20th century, a truly remarkable flowering of the banjo across the continent both on stage and in the home.

History of the Banjo #7 – Bluegrass Banjo https://youtu.be/aIvoI9ntYrI
* In this final video George Gibson recalls the history and context of the post-WWII adaptation of the banjo and banjo playing to a driving style suited for the stage.

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