08 April 2023

National Banjo Day

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, TN/VA, is celebrating National Banjo Day today with a brief outline of banjo history and a photo of the oldest surviving instrument that can be called a banjo, the 'Creole bania' obtained in the 1770s in Suriname, South America, by John Gabriel Stedman (1744-97). The photo is credited to Kristina R. Gaddy, who describes the instrument and Stedman's association with it in chapters of her book Well of souls: uncovering the banjo's hidden history. Another photo of the 'bania' is on the Banjo Roots Blog, at the head of Shlomo Pestcoe's 2011 article 'The Stedman "Creole bania": a look at the world’s oldest banjo'.

The venerable instrument is in the collection of the national museum of ethnology at Leiden (NL). Unfortunately, it is not currently on public display. Update: A photo can also be seen on the 'Banjo Roots: Banjo Beginnings' Facebook.

National Banjo Day is also being celebrated by the Compass Records Group with a Banjo Day Sale, offering 25% off select titles from their extensive catalogue of banjo-centric music. The Deering Banjo Company are (coincidentally?) introducing a new line of merchandise with the image of their newly designed character 'Banjohead'.

© Richard Hawkins

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