Cover: The Banjo: America’s African Instrument, from Harvard University PressCover: The Banjo in HARDCOVER

The Banjo

America’s African Instrument

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674047846

Publication Date: 03/14/2016


384 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

20 halftones

Belknap Press


Dubois attempts to trace the evolution of the modern instrument from its African antecedents to the present day, prudently noting that a linear account is likely to be misleading… There is enough anecdote and lore to satisfy both the casual and the specialist reader.—Lou Glandfield, The Times Literary Supplement

Dubois illuminates the banjo’s complicated cultural history… This lively account is not without surprises.The New Yorker

Dubois relates here a history of the instrument that is both learned and entertaining. His enthusiasm shines through every page.—John Check, The Weekly Standard

[A] riveting history of the banjo… While the story Dubois tells is primarily historical and sociological, it is also musical, and he never lets us forget the magical hum that distinguishes the banjo from the guitar and other stringed instruments… Dubois combines erudition with obvious enjoyment. His limpid prose easily bears the weight of his impressive research.—Tom Gilling, The Australian

In his astonishing work The Banjo: America’s African Instrument, DuBois convincingly and compellingly demonstrates the instrument’s historical role as both symbol and product of diaspora and dislocation… The Banjo is a masterful accomplishment that reframes the broader cultural history of the world. By following the instrument from precontact to postmillennium, this celebrated historian has created a powerful tribute to the music, its performers, and its listeners… With its depth and power, The Banjo achieves an impact commensurate with its namesake.—Charles Hughes, American Historical Review

This is one of the very best books on the banjo published to date… It is also one with a grand scope of the life of the banjo. If you are interested enough in the banjo to understand the instrument and its uses more fully, you cannot do better than to read this lively, superb account.—Wayne Shrubsall, Banjo Newsletter

If you own a banjo you should probably own this book. But fair warning, it will probably lead you to buy more banjos, maybe even one made from a gourd. If you enjoy history on a grand but approachable scale…you will also find the book fascinating.Syncopated Times

A wonderful offering, and a fascinating and illuminating read. This is the most comprehensive book yet about the history of the banjo. The instrument’s story is told here with such depth and detail that it comes alive. I loved reading this.—Béla Fleck, banjoist

Following the strings of the banjo from Africa across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and then to the United States, Laurent Dubois provides a new perspective on the African diaspora. The Banjo: America’s African Instrument is a rich, original view of our sonic landscape. It is impossible to follow Dubois’s trail without a smile and the satisfaction of hearing the world anew.—Ira Berlin, author of Generations of Captivity: A History of African American Slaves

Dubois reveals the banjo as a vital medium for the ideas and struggles of the people who make it, play it, and hear it. Combining storytelling and scholarship as seamlessly as the banjo condenses rhythm and melody, this special book is a melodious read by an extraordinary writer of Atlantic history.—Vincent Brown, author of The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

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