On today’s show Eli attempts to demonstrate the real links between African & African-American music.
The show features a direct comparison of African ekonting music to African-American banjo music followed by an interview with Daniel Jatta, music researcher of the Jola tribe from Senegambia. In the interview Daniel plays Jola songs on the ekonting, and gives a description of his research into the instrument and its clear connection to the African-American banjo. He also discusses the cultural center he has founded in Gambia to preserve and promote Jola culture and other traditional cultures of the region. This group in Africa has retained a musical culture closest to that which arrived with slaves brought to America from that region hundreds of years ago.
Included above is also a complete 46 min tape of field recordings of ekonting music sent in by Daniel Jatta.
(L) Anonymous folk painting. South Carolina, c. 1790. One of the oldest depictions of an early gourd banjo in America. (R) Master ekonting player Jules Ekona Jatta with drums and percussion, Mandinary, Gambia 2003.
Daniel Jatta and the Jola akonting:
Daniel is doing real amazing work. For years American researchers have tried to trace “the roots of the blues” back to Africa, with little real success. African America music is just not that much like any African music that they could discover. Daniel’s research into the music of his tribe, the Jola, really presents the most direct link between African and African-American music that is known. The instrument that he learned from his father, the ekonting, is obviously banjo like in its construcion and its playing technique is identical to that used by elder African-American banjo players here in the USA.