Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World

Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World

Richard Jones-Bamman

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780252041303

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

Abstract

This book addresses the relationship between small-scale banjo makers and the musical community within which they function, specifically groups and individuals interested in the performance and promotion of old-time music, a style deeply invested with nostalgia and a romanticized view of rural American life. Within this environment, banjo builders provide not only instruments that continuously reference a collectively imagined past, but also expand that same conception to include elements that have heretofore been overlooked or purposely ignored, such as blackface minstrelsy and the role this 19th century phenomenon played in advancing the popularity of the banjo. By introducing instruments that reference or replicate those used in this admittedly onerous practice, builders are contributing to the growing awareness within the old-time musical world that much of the music and its associated techniques are the result of centuries of interaction between black and white musicians. In doing so, they have also advanced the discourse regarding race and music in American society by demonstrating how deeply embedded these processes are in our nation’s history.