The Museum of Making Music's special exhibit, "The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument," reveals a compelling and triumphant story about "America's Instrument." Today the banjo is nearly everywhere. It's played on children's television, late-night television and at the World Series. Grammy winning artists, famous comedians and international megastars place the banjo at the center of their acts. Today, the "happy instrument" is so popular, a Google search for "banjo lessons" turns up nearly four million hits in 0.25 seconds.
How did that happen? How did the banjo emerge from the plains of West Africa to plantations in the American South? How did it survive the disturbing years of minstrelsy and eventually thrive under the bright lights of country, folk and bluegrass? And finally how did the instrument break from its traditional roots to influence nearly every genre of American popular music, from jazz to rock, from funk to punk?
Accompanied by an impressive array of historical instruments as well as those made by today's companies large and small, the exhibition tells a story of how music is made in America . . . how all elements of the industry – musicians, manufacturers, dealers, consumers, songwriters and publishers – interact in a musical ecosystem centered on the banjo.
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