Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

AP article about modern interest in early minstrelsy and Civil War era music

Thought some folks here might be interested in a recent story being picked up from the Associated Press. See what you think.

Happy Labor Day,

Greg

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There is so much to be said, and everyone is covering it in different degrees. Main point that I see,  is the derogatory titles or names hung on an particular group of people during a long period of our history, this is unfortunately part of our human condition. We, as a society are trying to correct that and make it known that that type of behavior is not favorable, and it's actually looked down on. These are our modern sensibilities. For the songs we are talking about from about 150 years ago I find some of these songs almost cartoon like and goofy in their lyric content. and yes using words that may not be favorable today, but it was not written today or a decade ago, but 150 + years ago. Here is an example  today you might be sitting in your car stopped at a traffic light you are likely to hear a car next to you blasting some of today's current music, especially with rap or hip hop, the N word is a constant within the lyric content of these songs, and it is used in the most vulgar context. But this seems to be A-OK. So I wonder why it's accepted in one arena,  yet we are chastised for reinterpreting a historical piece of music that uses derogatory words to describe the character's for which the song was written. And please I am not saying this to be argumentative,    but can someone explain the double standard approach to lyrics, in  modern and historical music. Why is it acceptable in the mainstream, today when we are so PC about everything, yet if you play a song from a period of our history when things were as far from that way of thinking, you are made to be on pins and needles because you might offend. I doesn't make sense to me. So with this said I will continue to use better judgement and will also pick the word with the less negative meaning because bottom line I don't want anyone to feel bad or hurt their feelings and I am conscious  of that fact, but there is a double standard out there going on and I don't like it.

Yes, there is a double standard.  However, most of the time, people who use nigger today are of African ancestory.  150 years ago, the term was at times used in reference to people of African heritage, but was often used in the context that blacks were of an inferior race to whites.  The problem is discerning when the intent was racist, and when not.  Today, the perception of the public is that all of these lyrics are racist.  Even if they are not, it's a lose lose proposition, because people interpret you as being racist, and the music being racist, regardless of the intent, or historical meaning. That is the main reason I change some of the wording, and avoid certain songs. 

 

I've no interest in singing anything racist, and do not want to give anyone the opportunity of thinking I am.  I however do not want to be ignorant of the original lyrics of a song, and feel that the public needs to understand the meaning of the songs as well. I also don't want to be caught singing a song with altered lyrics, and to be told that the original song was a racist song, and that I am white washing the past. That is why the book Elaine and I are publishing has the original lyrics.  If you are going to perform this music you need to be well versed in the history and issues surrounding it.

A book of original lyrics would be a great reference tool to have in your collection along with ones sheet music etc.. I'm sure we will know when this is available from your post. Good Deal!

"That's' Racist"...what a "knee-jerk reaction" people have automatically when they here the N word or Darky etc.. I mean pertaining to these songs. I had a fellow reenactor over at my house and had a list of songs and the notation and started going over them. The second song, he saw the word "Darky" and before strumming a lick or hearing the song he twitched nervously saying I'm not comfortable with that word...I was like wow man why don't we play the song first and we can discuss that. This was a white gentlemen With Jewish and Greek decent. Some people have it wired to feel automatically uncomfortable and can't look at it in any other light other than we are giving into racism. Kinda extreme. But generally, black, white or anyone else with an ethnic back ground and an open mind can understand which way the content is intended,and will not have a problem, it's the handful that loose their minds and only see it one way. At any rate, I think I have discovered a treasure of music and will over the next several years be on a journey into a new found OLD world. Now on with the music!

The imagery is so powerful.

Dave Dishneau, the author of the article asked if I would post the following:

 

"I'm glad my story provoked some discussion. I worked hard to produce a balanced piece. I attended the 2nd SC String Band show with no idea that their music came largely from blackface minstrelsy. After hearing and enjoying the music, I asked a lot of questions. The band members were very cooperative but some were worried the story would reflect badly on them. I assured them that as a musician myself, I had no desire to denigrate them. Rather, my goal was to educate readers about the value of this music and the difficulty of presenting it to modern listeners. I talked to many people who weren't quoted in the story due to space limits, and I'm grateful to all of them." 

John, the quote is cut off from view after the first line, for me anyway.

I’m Dave Dishneau, the author of the AP story. Here’s the full text of the message John tried to post: I'm glad my story provoked some discussion. I worked hard to produce a balanced piece. I attended the 2nd SC String Band show with no idea that their music came largely from blackface minstrelsy. After hearing and enjoying the music, I asked a lot of questions. The band members were very cooperative but some were worried the story would reflect badly on them. I assured them that as a musician myself, I had no desire to denigrate them. Rather, my goal was to educate readers about the value of this music and the difficulty of presenting it to modern listeners. I talked to many people who weren't quoted in the story due to space limits, and I'm grateful to all of them.

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