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Banjo History Quiz

Posted by dgill on Tuesday, March 3, 2009

  I had someone tell me today that the banjo first came from Africa and was first called a banjar.  Anyone know the history of the banjo well enough to comment on this as fact or fiction?

4 comments on “Banjo History Quiz”

jeremy blankenship Says:
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 @6:15:07 PM


Banjo comes from the heart!!! LOL!!! I have heard this also but like you i am not sure either. someone answer for sure. i want to know also.


Brentk5s Says:
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 @7:08:21 PM

The history of the banjo is long and incredably interesting, and there is a wealth of information on-line and in your local library.  A good place to start would be "That half-barbaric Twang," I forget the author, but that should be enough to find it.  If you want something with more pictures of beautiful banjos from the turn-of -the previous century try "America's Instrument."  But if you can't wait here's a link to a Myspace page that explores some of the banjos ancestors.  It also cites additional recources.

The short answer is yes, the basics of the banjo come from Africa, but there are similiar hide covered string instruments found in Asia and the middle east.  The most likely direct ancestor to our modern banjo is the west African Akonting.

Good luck on your quest for knowledge.  It's a rabbit hole and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Pepper Laing Says:
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 @6:33:56 AM

Yes the history says the banjo came from Africa, there is alot of literature on this, you just need to search it out. Also tomorrow on WDVX The Blue Plate Special radio show broadcast live every noon hour EST to listen online. Bela Fleck will be performing live and his latest album/project is all about the african history of the banjo. I think in his performance will be discussing it`s history. This show is broadcast out of Knoxville TN.

Greg Connor Says:
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 @10:43:57 AM

If memory serves me, I recall reading that throughout history, only stunningly attractive charming people are drawn to the banjo. 

Playing a banjo was considered a social status reserved for only the most stylish individuals.   

At least, that's what I remember.

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