Submitted by: Mount Baker Theatre

Ever wondered how the banjo came to be? Need some fun facts up your sleeve for your next cocktail party? Win your next music-trivia match with these notes from your local entertainment hub, Mount Baker Theatre.

Husband and wife duo Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn command the banjo across multiple genres. Photo courtesy: Mount Baker Theatre.
  1. The banjo was invented in the 17th century by West Africans in the Caribbean.
  2. Early banjos were built using a gourd for the body and a wooden stick for the neck.
  3. The origin of the word banjo is a topic of debate. The oxford dictionary claims it comes from the Portuguese word bandore. Others believe is derives from the Kimbundu word, mbanza.
  4. The plectrum banjo, a four-stringed instrument, has made an appearance in several musicals. Some examples include classics like Hello, Dolly! Cabaret and Annie.
  5. The banjo’s music is not confined to only folk and rock music. Recent MBT artist Bela Fleck, renowned as one of the most innovative banjo players in the world, plays jazz, R&B and even classical.
  6. Joe Raposo, composer of the children’s show Sesame Street, used a variety of different banjos to create a seven-piece banjo orchestra for some of the show’s music.
  7. Like other stringed instruments, there are many different ways to play the banjo! Traditionally, the player picks the strings in an upward motion with the fingers and a downward motion with the thumb. The Clawhammer technique, also known as “frailing” utilizes down-picking almost exclusively.

Can’t get enough of this unique instrument? Lucky for you, the banjo will be in the spotlight this season at the Mount Baker Theatre! Come marvel at this instrument’s many sounds and styles when you see Bela Fleck & Abigail WashburnLonesome Traveler: The Concert with Peter YarrowWe Banjo 3 and Daily & Vincent on the Mount Baker Theatre main stage!

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