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Has Achieved Nirvana
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quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler:

I'm kinda re-thinking this whole banjo thing. Even the instrument itself has a fraught history.


You were BORN to play the Theremin. ThumbsUp


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Life is short. Play with your dog.

 
Posts: 33475 | Location: Yorba Linda, CA | Registered: 23 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
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I tried a theramin once. It’s really difficult!


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Smiler Jodi

 
Posts: 20129 | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
(self-titled) semi-posting lurker
Minor Deity
Picture of ShiroKuro
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quote:
That a lot of the songs I grew up with carry a lot of racist baggage.


There have been some songs I recognized this problem early on, but one I had no idea of was Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones. I had never paid attention to they lyrics, but I read an article about it, and it's pretty clear.

They have apparently pulled that song from their concert set lists.


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My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 17175 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Serial origamist
Has Achieved Nirvana
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I’d love to play the sax, but my breath is too moist to play wind instruments. I tried clarinet for a while. After a few minutes, it sounded like I was blowing bubbles in milk with a straw. The only wind instrument I can play is a quena. I may take that up.

I made a theremin from a Radio Shack project book in the 1970s. It was fun.

I may actually go back to piano lessons. There’s another Scarlatti piece I want to learn.

Or cello. I played cello when I was a kid.


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pj, citizen-poster, unless specifically noted otherwise.

mod-in-training.

pj@ermosworld∙com

All types of erorrs fixed while you wait.

 
Posts: 29631 | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
czarina
Has Achieved Nirvana
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I didn't know a lot of this stuff!

What is the racist baggage behind the banjo?

And what are the racist lyrics to Turkey in the Straw? We used to square dance to that in grade school, but I never did understand the lyrics.


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fear is the thief of dreams

 
Posts: 20710 | Registered: 18 May 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
Picture of wtg
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Miller:
quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler:

I'm kinda re-thinking this whole banjo thing. Even the instrument itself has a fraught history.


You were BORN to play the Theremin. ThumbsUp



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We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home. - Australian Aboriginal proverb

Bazootiehead-in-training



 
Posts: 35262 | Location: Somewhere in the middle | Registered: 19 January 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Serial origamist
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quote:
Originally posted by piqué:
I didn't know a lot of this stuff!

What is the racist baggage behind the banjo?

And what are the racist lyrics to Turkey in the Straw? We used to square dance to that in grade school, but I never did understand the lyrics.


Very short version: The banjo was brought to America by enslaved Africans. White people copied and altered the instrument in the early days of blackface minstrel performance, and largely used it to play music that made fun of Africans. Many of the songs were stolen from the songs of enslaved people or written to mock them. My summary: the history of the instrument and the "old tyme American music" genre associated with it is racist.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo

The instrument nearly faded into history until Earl Scruggs and early bluegrass musicians resurrected it. Later it was (pun intended) instrumental in the Folk Revival, especially in the hands of Folks like Pete Seeger.


As for Turkey in the Straw, I'll just point you here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_in_the_Straw

A friend of mine sent me this:
https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/n...uestion/2018/may.htm

I also found this which eventually led to The Good Humor company commissioning a member of Wu Tang Clan to write a new completely non-racist, zero-baggage jingle to replace Turkey in the Straw on their ice cream trucks:
https://www.npr.org/sections/c...leasant-news-for-you


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pj, citizen-poster, unless specifically noted otherwise.

mod-in-training.

pj@ermosworld∙com

All types of erorrs fixed while you wait.

 
Posts: 29631 | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Beatification Candidate
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The turn toward discussions of racist baggage brought the statue of Stephen Foster and the banjo-playing black man at his feet again to mind. The statue was removed from its public location in 2018 on a unanimous vote by the Art Commission of the city of Pittsburgh. There is now a controversy over a statue of Christopher Columbus not too far from where the Foster statue stood that is currently wrapped from view while argument rages over removing it as well.

This thread is the first I've heard of the banjo being a racist instrument. I wonder how PJ's banjo instructor can reconcile teaching people how to play it?

This thread and the direction it turned made me think of something that I didn't know.

I grew up in a mostly rural area in eastern Ohio and to the best of my knowledge did not live around any Jewish people. My confirmation class at church visited a synagogue in the closest city and I knew a good bit of the history of the Israelites from bible study, but I didn't actually know anyone who identified themselves as Jewish.

When I went to college, I was still rather naive and so when a couple of my close friends (who were Jewish) referred the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh that had a large Jewish population as Kike's Peak, I simply thought of it as humorous. I later used that name for the neighborhood in conversation with a Jewish girl and was rapidly disabused of any notion that the name was humorous or anything other than deeply offensive. I put it in the class of words such as black people using the N word amongst themselves but never to be used by others.

In a somewhat lighter vein, the word Hoopie is still used around the tri-state PA-OH-WV area in reference to people from West Virginia. I was born in Wheeling, WV because that is where my mother's doctor did deliveries, but I came home to Ohio from the hospital and lived there until I went to college. I nonetheless take a little perverse pleasure when I hear someone going on about hoopies to let them babble and then say, "I was born in West Virginia," just to make them squirm a little.

Big Al


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Money seems to buy the most happiness when you give it away.

Why does everything have to be so complicated, all in the name of convenience. -ShiroKuro

A lifetime of experience will change a person. If it doesn't, then you're already dead inside. -MarkJ

 
Posts: 7029 | Location: Western PA | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
czarina
Has Achieved Nirvana
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thanks for the information, pj!

sorry, it doesn't make sense to me to not play the banjo just because of this history. (not that i am particularly fond of the banjo.)

I mean, do you decide you aren't going to listen to Beethoven because Hitler used one of his melodies for a Nazi anthem? Beethoven didn't write music for the Nazis, and the banjo didn't abduct Africans and enslave them.

Or how about not listening to brass bands because some dictators used them as part of their ceremonies of repression?

I am a liberal, but sometimes even I think these ideas go too far.


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fear is the thief of dreams

 
Posts: 20710 | Registered: 18 May 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Serial origamist
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You’re right. It’s messy. I’m thinking about it. I haven’t firmly decided to give up banjo, and input like yours is helpful in sorting through my thoughts.

If a song gets diverted, co-opted, tainted long after its original writing, is it forever damaged? Like Helter-Skelter? I’ve talked with a few folks now who have said that Turkey in the Straw is irretrievably broken, and musica-non-grata. It does not reduce my life any to never play it.

Hitler was also fond of Wagner operas that exalted Norse mythological heroes.

I’m weaning myself off Eric Clapton because of his racist outbursts. I hear Van Morrison is likewise. I loved both of them as performers.

I’m trying to learn more about the banjo itself and the baggage it carries. It’s no mistake that the Black person sitting under Stephen Foster in that sculpture was playing a banjo.

As another semi-analogy, I sometimes wondered why Jewish people were okay with driving VWs. (OTOH, it was a British guy who restarted the Beetle factory in the aftermath of WWII.)

It’s messy.

I do love the sound of a good banjo… like a good harpsichord. It’s plucky! I associate it with folks like Pete Seeger, The Clancy Brothers, and Steve Martin. Good people. I’m just a little uncomfortable with the instrument’s origin story.

And very uncomfortable with the music I grew up with, not knowing until now, that it was popularized on the blackface minstrel circuit.

I guess that qualifies me to be labeled as “woke”.


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pj, citizen-poster, unless specifically noted otherwise.

mod-in-training.

pj@ermosworld∙com

All types of erorrs fixed while you wait.

 
Posts: 29631 | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Foregoing Practicing to Post
Minor Deity
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It’s all messy. We have to live with it and move on. (But not ignore the history or try to hide it.)


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“It's hard to win an argument with a smart person. It's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person." -- Bill Murray

 
Posts: 13190 | Location: The outer burrows | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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