Posted by ChuckJo on Saturday, December 12, 2009
On November 14th, I had the honor of presenting a concert at the Ships of The Sea Museum in Savannah, Georgia. I had a great time researching, organizing, and rehearsing a full program of Jola, minstrel, clawhammer, and two-finger up-picking selections on the West African akonting/ekonting*, and the five and six-string fretted and fretless banjos. I managed to include a few fiddle tunes as well Tony Pizzo, the Museum Director, was a wonderful host, the setting was lovely, the audience was attentive and appreciative.
I got a chance to explore the museum, which was also a delight. It was filled with interesting maritime curios as well as fantastic models of wind powered and steam ships rendered in exquisite detail.
However, what really impressed me was the workshop that occurred prior to the concert. Tony and his assistants guided 20 or so students to each build a 4-string banjo (3 long strings and a short thumb string) as well as an akonting. The key to this was that the pot of these instruments was a cookie tin, and the necks were made of would available at the hardware store. Autoharp-style pins are used for tuning pegs, and nylon guitar strings or “Weed Wacker” nylon strings are used for the strings. Tony provided all the power tools necessary. The students worked steadily through the morning and afternoon creating their “canjos and acantings” with Tony darting from table to table. Tony estimates that he has had 60 students complete his class since it started a few years ago. I have placed some photos from workshop in a folder on this site.
Tony has also produced some terrific films on the akonting/ekonting featuring Sana Ndiaye, Greg Adams, Paul Sedgewick, John Catches, Tony Pizzo and me, as well as Bob Zentz on the canjo all at http://shipsofthesea.org/video
*The akonting – also spelled “ekonting” is a 3 stringed African instrument played by the Jola people of Senegal and Gambia. It is played in a style that is virtually adentical to clawhammer/minstrel banjo style.and a short string) and an akonting/ekonting
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