The Banjo

04:31
Louis Moreau Gottschalk, arranged by Paul Ely Smith
c.2016

Story

From "American Akonting."  This is both a remarkable piece of music, demonstrating African-American music a half century before it swept into mainstream American popular music in a more pervasive way, as well as a document of an African-American banjo style that was not documented anywhere else.  In fact, there is no other document of African-American banjo music before 1900, and this 1854 piece (along with a version of Gottschalk's earlier "Bamboula," also on my recording) represents the roots of string music from the Mississippi Delta that became the driving force in American music.  For more information, go the the "Articles, downloads, press" section of the website and download my published research but, yes, I think this is a transcription of banjo music, arranged for piano by Gottschalk--and perhaps cut-and-pasted a bit (but in an interesting way!).  I back-engineered my gourd banjo version using techniques adapted from West African plucked lute technique, 19th-c. minstrel-era banjo methods, traditional clawhammer style, and the playing of blues guitarists like John Lee Hooker and Son House.  You can download tablature and notation (for five-string banjo) of this piece, and "Bamboula" as well, in the "Articles, downloads, press" section of the website.