UNC Southern Folklife symposium digs into the banjo’s roots
If you want to gauge the importance of the banjo to modern music in the Carolinas, take a quick peek at a partial list of bands and artists that employ the instrument in their musical endeavors: The Avett Brothers, Megafaun (and Phil Cook & His Feat), Andy the Doorbum, Hiss Golden Messenger, Chatham County Line, Appalucia, Midtown Dickens, Carolina Chocolate Drops, et al.
Whether delivering drones, percussion or high-speed arpeggios, the instrument’s versatility is clear; its history is less so. That’s one reason The Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill will present The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches on Saturday, August 25.
The first of a three-part, interactive Southern Folklife Collection Instrument Series (pedal steel and fiddle follow in 2013), the symposium will feature free lectures and panel discussions during the day at Wilson Special Collections Library, and a free concert that evening at Memorial Hall featuring Tony Trischka, Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin, and Dom Flemons of the Chocolate Drops.
Steve Weiss, Curator of Southern Folklife Collection, elaborates, “Through exhibits, lectures and performances, the event will explore the history of …an instrument that traces its origins from enslaved Africans brought to the new world, rising to the pinnacle of American popular culture, and deeply embedded in American traditional music.”
Though admission is free, tickets are required and available through the Memorial Hall Box Office and online. An exhibit of banjo instruments and ephemera will be on display on the 4th floor of Wilson Library from Aug. 25 to Dec. 31, during the following hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 pm; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Sundays 1-5 p.m.
A schedule for the day events and evening concert follows, as well as a couple of our favorite regional bands employing the banjo to superb effect. – John Schacht
THE BANJO: SOUTHERN ROOTS, AMERICAN BRANCHES SCHEDULE:
Saturday, August 25, 2012
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Symposium – Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lectures and Panel discussions on the history of the banjo featuring:
- Robert Cantwell, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of Bluegrass Breakdown
- Bob Carlin, Musician and Author of The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy
- Cecelia Conway, Appalachian State University Professor of English; Author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia
- Laurent DuBois, Duke Professor of Romance Studies and History
- Dom Flemons, musician (Carolina Chocolate Drops)
- Jim Mills, musician (Vince Gill, Ricky Scaggs)
- Phillip Gura, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century
- Stephen Wade, Musician and Author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience
7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m: Concert – Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill
- Tony Trischka
- Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin
- Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops)