North Carolina Roots: Old Time Banjo
The History of Old Time Banjo
No one knows when the banjo first emerged in North America. All that is known for sure is that the banjo is a descendent of similar instruments made in West Africa. As Africans were brought to America as slaves, their instrument making skills came with them. In the mid-nineteenth century, the banjo was adopted by white musicians and became a centerpiece of minstrel shows. Traveling musicians (not necessarily minstrels) spread the banjo inland to many parts of Appalachia. After the Civil War, pairing of the banjo with the fiddle became common, and banjo players developed and refined a percussive style known as clawhammer, which added a rhythmic punch to the music.
Old time banjo refers to styles of banjo playing – both clawhammer and finger style – associated with old time music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Blue Ridge Music Trails Events
Interested in hearing great old time banjo music on your trip to the North Carolina mountains and foothills? Then be sure you check out the Blue Ridge Music Trails interactive map and calendar. Some of the best places to hear old time banjo include:
- Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention
- Tommy Jarrell Festival
- Bluff Mountain Festival
- Shindig on the Green
- Mountain Dance and Folk Festival
Don’t miss your chance to see the old time banjo in action and to experience the richness of this music tradition in the North Carolina mountains and foothills.