Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Would have given anything to hear what these guys could play.

Hey Terry Bell, check out the size of that Tambourine.

Views: 235

Comment by Wes Merchant on June 30, 2013 at 1:28pm

It reminds me a bit of:


I've seen speculation that the bodrahn was actually derived from the minstrel tambo.

Comment by Strumelia on June 30, 2013 at 5:31pm

Ok so check this out, Wes:


For a bit in the beginning, but then again very clearly at about 1:30 min, you can see the bodhran (tambo?) player using the thumb roll technique, which makes the jingles shiver.

Comment by Wes Merchant on June 30, 2013 at 7:46pm

Thanks that a good one.

Comment by Ian Bell on June 30, 2013 at 9:26pm
Very cool I've never seen/heard a bodhran like that. Very much a tambo.
Comment by Nicholas A Bechtel on June 30, 2013 at 9:49pm

Great footage. Very cool. This is another reason why I love this site, one thing can open the door to something else, or more information on how all this ties in.

Comment by Mark Weems on July 2, 2013 at 7:29pm

There are linguistic references to the Bodhran going back to the 17th century. Most musical cultures worldwide have some sort of frame drum, so to think that Ireland did not have one before the 20th century hardly seems plausible. Now just when an instrument  becomes a session instrument is something different. For instance - guitars existed in Ireland for hundreds of years before they started to be played in sessions in the 1960's.

Comment by Wes Merchant on July 3, 2013 at 7:11pm

Dan'l I tend to agree with you, in fact one of the definitions given in this article is "a type of tambourine." I must admit I'm a bit intrigued by the thought that  the music flowed both ways across the Atlantic. Denis Murphy recorded a fine version of Turkey in the Straw  and Francis O'Neill included it in his music of Ireland.


Comment by Scott Johnson on July 4, 2013 at 11:43am

Has anyone taken a serious look at how these big tambo's would have been played?  The big tambo's seem to show up a lot in old pictures and playbills from the period, but every time I watch a video of someone playing one I get the impression that they aren't quite sure what to do with it.  It would be interesting to have a serious percussionist take a look at one and see just what they could do with it.

In Irish music the Boudran is taken very seriously, but the big tambo's seem to be an a second class instrument, behind the fiddle, banjo, and bones.  Yet they were in all the early shows.

I am not a percussionist and would have never thought of using the thumb finger roll that Strumelia pointed out. Are there other techniques (from Irish or other people that use big hand drums) that could have or would have been used by Minstrel players?

Comment by Strumelia on July 4, 2013 at 12:22pm

The whole purpose of the 'thumb roll' is to make the jingles ring in an extended shivering way.  So doing that same thing on a regular bodhran or frame drum without jingles would probably not produce any effect to speak of.  Watch King Bennett of the Camptown Shakers do this masterfully- they have some great videos right on this site- and then go buy their CDs, if you haven't already!!   :)

Scott- I agree with you totally- there must have been some great minstrel tambo and frame hand drum players back then, we should look to current skilled drum players to imagine what might have been going on.  I'm sure it was way more complex than this: http://youtu.be/hJpZnAXrRWo

(just gotta love Davey Jones, though!)

Comment by Tim Twiss on July 4, 2013 at 12:37pm

I think a lot about that when I see shots like this....trying to imagine the dynamic of the group with that big tambo and jingles, the hard shoes beating time on a wooden stage, big deep banjos thumping, bones clanging with an echo, and deep resonant singing. I think it is something just beyond our experience to grasp.


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