Give Me the Banjo

Give Me the Banjo

Downloadable Video - 2011
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The banjo has been an emblem of American culture for centuries, yet few realize the instrument's complicated, checkered past. Narrated by Steve Martin and featuring such banjo masters as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck, Give Me The Banjo goes beyond the stereotypes and delves into the musical odyssey of the banjo, from its African roots to the present day. Brought to the New World by enslaved Africans, the banjo has shaped many American musical forms: the minstrel show, ragtime, and early jazz, old-time folk and the folk revival, as well as blues, bluegrass, country and world music. Packed with great music, this documentary brings together a wide variety of banjo experts-including music historians, instrument-makers, folklorists, and players of all styles-and profiles past greats such as Charlie Poole and Gus Cannon to celebrate the cultural richness of America's quintessential musical instrument.
Publisher: Made available through hoopla,, 2011.
[United States] :, Cinedigm :, 2011.
Branch Call Number: eVideo hoopla
Characteristics: 1 online resource (1 video file (circa 83 min.)) :,sound, color.
data file, rda
digital, rda

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BoneyardPreacher
Dec 14, 2014

A more accurate title for this DVD might be "Give Me the Five String Banjo". The documentary does a fine job of presenting the history and music associated with country and bluegrass five-string banjo. However, as often is the case, history has been re-written to support the preference of the film maker.

Roughly from 1915 through 1960, the four-string banjo ( tenor and plectrum ) was America's banjo, and the prominent instrument of the banjo family. The prevalence of the four string banjo in jazz, popular and folk music was widespread. The five string banjo was in decline at the time, and did not resurface in popular culture until the 1950's.

Unbelievably, this documentary almost entirely ignores the four-string banjo except for a gratuitous "special feature" which most viewers will miss at the end of the video.

As a result, some of the world's greatest banjo players, four-string stylists such as Harry Reser, Eddie Peabody, Buddy Wachter, Don Vappie, and Seattle's own Dave Brown and Al LaTourette are ignored.

Any history of America's instrument needs to be include the styles, legacy and performers on the four-string banjo as well.

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