Banjo Ancestors and Its Origin

Though many people think that the banjo is the all-American instrument, born and developed in the good ol’ U. S. of A., they’re only telling you a partial truth and a very small part of the whole story. What they are thinking of is the 5-string banjo donned by such greats as Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck. It’s the most prevalent type of banjo in many popular styles of American music such as Bluegrass, Dixieland, and Country, so naturally, being exposed to no other types of banjos, one would assume that the 5-string IS the banjo.

In reality the banjo originated hundreds of years ago somewhere on the African continent. These instruments were quite simple and rough – an animal skin tacked on to a hollowed half of a gourd with three or four strings stretched over a planed stick (keep in mind, too, that there were no such things as frets back then). The strings were often made from waxed horsehair or gut. One name for this instrument was the banjar. (Isn’t it interesting that the pronunciation of this native-African word from ages ago is still being used by the back-woodsy American folk of today?) Anyway…

The story of the banjo begins in the 17th century when African slaves in the New World began making and playing lute-type string instruments with drum-like gourd bodies. In 1678, the French colonial government of Martinique restated an edict issued twenty four years earlier prohibiting African slaves from gathering together for dances and socializing. The new ordinance specified kalendas. More commonly known as la calinda(also calenda), the kalenda was a social gathering of slaves in which they danced dances of clear African origin to the accompaniment of a drum or two and the banza. (In later years, some reports also mentioned the inclusion of the violin in a typical calinda band.)

Eleven years later, Sir Hans Sloane wrote the first report of the early banjo which gave a description of the instrument. In the account of his 1687 sojourn through the West Indies (written in 1689 but not published until 1707), Sir Hans described the “Negroes” in Jamaica as playing strum-strums, which were “Instruments in imitation of Lutes, made from small Gourds fitted with Necks, strung with Horse hairs, or the peeled stalks of climbing Plants or Withs.”

http://www.musicfolk.com/docs/Features/Feature_Banjo.htm

http://www.shlomomusic.com/banjoancestors_earlybanjos.htm

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/banjo

“Just Mercy”: Bryan Stevenson on Ferguson, Prison Reform & Why the Opposite of Poverty is Justice

The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.

We litigate on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment.

EJI also prepares reports, newsletters and manuals to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of reforming the administration of criminal justice.

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The increase in the jail and prison population from 300,000 to 2.3 million in the past 40 years has lead to unprecedented prison overcrowding and put tremendous strain on state budgets. “Tough on crime” policy has created a growing underclass of ex-prisoners who are barred from productively re-entering society by increasingly numerous and onerous restrictions on things like applying for a driver’s license, adopting a child, voting, and receiving federal aid for education or food in many states.

Alabama’s prisons were built to hold 14,000 prisoners. Today, they hold 28,000. The state faces an overcrowding crisis created by the tremendous increase in the number of people sent to prison in the last 25 years.

Alabama spends only $26 a day per prisoner; the national average is $62. It spends the least of any state in the country on medical care for inmates. Alabama’s prisons have the highest inmate to correctional officer ratio in the country. Many have waiting lists for solitary confinement. Unsafe prison conditions have given rise to lawsuits in which courts have found that crowding in state and local facilities is “barbaric.”

http://www.eji.org/

J. Cole: Earlier That Day

Arise America: Child Violinist Plays for Peace

Fire Chief Refuses to Help ‘Nigger’ Family in Traffic Accident

%d bloggers like this: