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Paul Ely Smith: Home


"Smith sets out to turn the improbable into the incredible, and succeeds." --Jim Hatlo, Frets Magazine

"This is the kind of album that you're going to listen to in ten years and still be picking up nuances."  --Dan Maher, Inland Folk, Northwest Public Radio

Winter 2019

Thanks for visiting!

30 years ago, I found the Rosetta Stone of American music hiding in the piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, especially in his 1854 piece “The Banjo,” which turned out to be a transcription, in fact the only surviving document of African-American banjo music until 1900, a link between West Africa and the heart of American roots music. In the next few decades, I published my research, built gourd banjos, and tried to master this intoxicating banjo music. I have at last finished and released the recording of this project, "American Akonting," now available on cdbaby (best deal for me...), Amazon, iTunes, etc.  Click on "Buy" in the menu on the upper right, and you can go straight to cdbaby to buy it. 

Or you can click on the flash music player below and start listening to some music, then you can go to "Links" in the menu above and read my blog (see November 2011 for information about my gourd banjo designs, and there are also posts on prairie restoration...plenty of long-term projects around here!), or to "Press," where you can download a pdf copy of the 1992 Current Musicology article on Gottschalk that started it all. In the "Music" section are a variety of recordings you can stream of my work as a composer, performer, and producer. There are pieces of mine, from string music to brass quintet to choir, and also examples of recordings of other people I have produced here over the years. I am available for both concerts and lecture/concerts, and if you have any questions, send an email to

Paul Ely Smith

musician, composer, performer, producer, instrument builder