Carolina Chocolate Drops Reclaim the Banjo


Friday, March 09, 2012

Last month, a giant of folk music died, the 93-year-old fiddler Joe Thompson. He was instrumental in carrying a very old tradition of African American string band music into the 21st century, and inspiring young protégés like the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their new album Leaving Eden combines the old-time music they learned from Thompson with beatboxing.

The banjo derives from the African ngoni — a stringed instrument with a gourd base — and has a complicated history in the United States. It fell out of favor with black musicians for a good reason — the white minstrels, performing in black-face, who became a symbol of racism. That image still haunts the instrument. Events such as the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University are part of an effort to reclaim the instrument.

Alana Harper attended the 2010 Gathering and found that when it comes to talking about race, the banjo still flings off sparks.

(Originally aired: May 28, 2010)


Video: Carolina Chocolate Drops perform at the 2010 Black Banjo Gathering 


Alana Harper

Comments [3]

Gerald Trowell from Columbia SC

what superb talent, skill, and energy.....bravo bravo Carolina chocolate Drops!!!!!

May. 07 2012 04:52 PM

the white student, most likely asked a question, without knowing the broader ramfications of the racial historical context. i understand the anger and frustration of the black musicians present,but, do we also not allow for people to be uninformed, and, curious, by shouting them down? in the end, it's not, and should not, be so much about her,as it should be about our inability, to come to turns with the ugly horror of racism,which has nothing "post" about it. it's not so much, the question, "does it have to be about race",per se,that is the problem. it's the lack of understanding, that that is not, a question to be asked in a cavalier way,without great care and understanding, of the huge and deep wounds attached to race in america.

Mar. 10 2012 11:22 AM

love their music !

Mar. 10 2012 10:48 AM

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