Old time-enthusiasts, scholars, banjo-slingers and guitar-pickers will converge on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone this week for the Black Banjo Gathering. Stretching from March 24–28, the event features workshops, concerts, panel discussions, lectures, and late-night frolics all designed to commemorate the African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American origins of the banjo and recognize the merit of the black banjo tradition at large.
The Gathering is the second to unite this cross-section of practitioners and devotees. At the first, which happened in April of 2005, hundreds congregated to champion the sound and the artists who have persisted, notably Mebane’s own Joe Thompson, who went on to receive the NEA Heritage Fellowship for his lifetime of contributions in 2007. The 2005 event also has special significance because it marks the genesis of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, who met for the first time while in attendance and have gone on to garner national and international attention for their stringband inspired music.
Featuring lesser-known traditionalists and outright stars alike, this reunion of the Gathering is a chance to again commemorate the black banjo sound and to celebrate the new generation of musicians and academics carrying on the torch.
A tentative schedule has been posted online and the list of secured participants includes: Corey Harris, the Ebony Hillbillies, Alice Gerard, Rhiannon Giddens, Don Vappie, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Riley Baugus, Tony Thomas, Cece Conway, Mark Freed, Cheick Hamala Diabate, Otis Taylor, Jerron Paxton, Joan Dickerson, Hubby Jenkins, John Cohen, Clarke Buehling, James Leva, Pete Ross, Andy Cohen, Art Rosenbaum, Greg Adams, Rick Ward, Gail Gillespie, the Dust Busters, Mebanairs, George Gibson, Rich Kirby, Doug Dorschug, Rusty Blanton, Tom Hansell, Dr. Laurent Dubois, Dr. Afi-Odelia Scruggs, Paul Sedgwick, Jim Lloyd, Trevor McKenzie and Steve Kruger.
For more, visit the Appalachian State Appalachian Studies Dept. Web site.