Today Eli speaks with The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a great young African American string band hailing from North Carolina. They met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC in April of 2005, an event meant to bring forward the essential history of African American string band music. Since then they have become a very successful group, gaining more and more fans as they relentlessly tour the country. Most recently they have appeared on the soundtrack of the soon to be released film, “The Great Debaters.”
The band is:
Rhiannon Giddens (banjo, fiddle, voice)
Justin Robinson (fiddle, banjo, voice)
Dom Flemons (guitar, banjo, jug, harmonica, snare & voice).
African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia – Book by Cecelia Conway
Black Banjo Gathering – Website for the conference on the African and African-American origins of the banjo and old-time music, at which the CCDs first met. I was there too!
Joe Thompson– CCD’s teacher. Joe is perhaps the last traditionally schooled African American old-time fiddler. He lives in North Carolina. The Carolina Chocolate Drops met him at the Black Banjo Gathering and he has become their mentor.
Essay on African Origins of the Banjo– by Tony Thomas, organizer of the Black Banjo Gathering.
Great video podcast – This podcast features excellent footage and interviews with the CCD in Saint Louis in Jan. 2007.
Discography of African American String-band and related music that is in print:
During the show you heard examples I edited together of African akonting music and African-American banjo music played back to back in order to hear them in smooth succession. I believe this is as close as we can get to hearing the transition from African music to African American music such as blues. The akonting examples are drawn from field recordings made among the Jola ethnic group by Daniel Jatta in Senegal in 2003 and the banjo examples are taken from unreleased field recordings of banjo player Lucius Smith. These field recordings were made in the 1960’s. The examples used in this track appear as follows:
1. “Soon in the Mornin’ Babe” played by Lucius Smith.
2. Solo akonting.
3+4. Akonting in ensemble with percussion and voice.
5. “Soon in the Mornin’ Babe” played in ensemble. Here Smith plays the banjo together with fiddle and voice.
6. “Make It to My Shanty If I Can” played by Lucius Smith. At the end of this example Smith explains that a song can be played several ways, he then demonstrates by playing the same song but shifting into a different style and rhythm more applicable to the next example.
7. “Make It to My Shanty If I Can” played by Henry Thomas on the guitar, using a slide and displaying a ragtime-blues style that we are more familiar with hearing in blues music.