Pick, pluck, strum or strike

Posted on: 9th February, 2015

Category: Music

Contributor: Mark Holland

I love the way we (humans) keep stumbling from one stone cold fact to another. Everything we know about Dinosaurs is suddenly thrown in the air by the fact that they now tell us that our scaly monstrous lizard-like friends had feathers. I mean please be serious, I reckon that they probably wore underpants too except time has dissolved the evidence of this into the bedrock!

Growing up in the 70s we used to have these fabulous ‘Books of Knowledge’, barely 100 pages long with some fluffy drawings that contained everything we needed to know about everything; fact. Now with the Internet at our fingertips we can access volumes more information, which we can also cross-reference into the grey area in which most truth lies.

Take the origins of the Banjo, an instrument of the guitar family. The word itself of Spanish, Portuguese or African origin, or maybe based on a Japanese lute. First turned up with a fingerboard and frets in the 17th century Caribbean. In the less structured days of yore, could have had three to eight strings, could have been as big as a Double Bass, and played upright, or as small (petite or piccolo) as a ukulele. With infinite variations on tuning like ‘Sawmill’, ‘Mountain Modal’, ‘Old Time D’ or ‘Chicago’, first appeared on the big stage in the 1830s and popularised by the likes of Joel Walker Sweeney and subsequently brought over to the British music halls where it became very popular because of its volume. The playing techniques of the time became characteristic of Bluegrass. The Irish found a different way to play it with different tuning and accentuations.

The playing ability of greats like (the three-fingered) Django Rheinhardt made it a staple instrument in Jazz orchestras pre World War II before it was replaced by the Electric Guitar. Of similar vintage were the Flannagan Brothers from New York and Boston’s Shamrock Band and later its use in Irish music increased greatly with the folk revival of the 1960s. The late Barney McKenna of the Dubliners is acknowledged around the world as one of the instruments greatest ever advocates.

Modern pieces have been written, played and recorded by Steve Martin (Comedian), Sufjan Stevens and Beck, or the Classical recording by John Bullard ‘Bach on the Banjo’. It has also been a music hall favourite appearing in so many shows as diverse as ‘Hello Dolly’ and Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’.

Every incarnation of the Banjo gets labelled with another name; the six-string banjo — my favourite — is essentially a guitar neck attached to a banjo body, that makes everything sound like a Neil Young tune, can be called a Guitanjo, Guitjo, Banjitar, Bantar, or quite honestly whatever you’re having yourself.

But I like to think in my own unstructured view of world history that what probably really happened is one day down south in the southern States, driven by ingenuity and boredom someone grabbed a bucket, stretched a drum skin over it, hammered on a neck, tied some strings across and just got stuck in, and if anyone tries to tell me otherwise I’ll tell them that once upon a time we thought Dinosaurs had scales.

Mumford and Sons got some great mileage out of the banjo reasonably recently,

We Banjo 3 seem to be going places, Steve Martin has won praise with his band Steep Canyon Rangers, and of course The Dubliners, among many many others.


Latest News Articles:

Christmas on the beat
Clonakilty town aims to get snowed under with the return of the Clonakilty Christmas Express
On call for Christmas
Have your say in shaping the future of Clonakilty
Dursey Island project passes first phase in Failte Ireland’s Grant Scheme
Minister Ring visits superb rural initiatives in West Cork
West Cork farms celebrated at Milk Awards
Issue of childcare a major concern for 72 per cent of female entrepreneurs
Rain, slurry deadlines and housing
Celtic Ross Hotel awarded AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence

Join us on Facebook

This is the real spirit of Christmas at Caseys of Clonakilty. ... See MoreSee Less

Are you alone or do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? If so, then we here at Casey’s would like to make your day the little bit easier. We are offering a full Christmas dinner on us! Christmas dinners can be collected Christmas Eve from 12:30pm - 8:30pm. Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas from everyone at Casey’s

15th December, 2017  ·  

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s has just announced its Christmas schedule and it features several programmes of interest to listeners in West Cork.

On New Year’s Day at 12.08 pm we’ll hear highlights from the Éigse Dhiarmuidín Festival that took place in West Cork in early December, remembering musician and broadcaster Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. An Nollaig ar Oileán Chléire is an archive show presented by Mícheál Ó Sé on Wednesday 27 December at 5.30 pm about Christmas on Cape Clear and on Friday 29 December and 5 January at 7 pm, Peadar Ó Riada will bring us very special editions of his Cuireadh chun Ceoil programme from Múscraí. Keep an ear out!
... See MoreSee Less

15th December, 2017  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork shared Garda Síochána - Cork, Kerry & Limerick - Southern Region's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

REMINDER: An Garda Siochana are hosting a Retail Crime Prevention Meeting, to be held at 7pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017. This meeting will be held in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon. This meeting is one of a series being held across the West Cork Garda Division, in association with Operation Thor, the Garda National Anti-Crime Strategy. The purpose of the meeting is to increase the cooperation between Gardai and the retail sector, ensuring that the current low levels of crime in the locality extends past the busy approaching Christmas season. The meeting will be addressed by the local Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Ian O’ Callaghan, who will discuss burglary prevention, shoplifting, fraud, and cybercrime. There will be a particular focus on cash handling and cash exposure of businesses in the run up to the Christmas shopping period. All aspects of commercial crime will be discussed, and we would strongly urge all businesses to make a special effort to attend on the evening.

28th November, 2017  ·  

TRADING THROUGH BREXIT - BREXIT BRIEFING SERIES LAUNCHED
Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Simon Coveney T.D. is hosting a number of Brexit Breakfast Briefings in Cork in the coming weeks. The first in the series takes place on Monday, 4 December at the Carrigaline Court Hotel at 7:30am until 9am. Business owners, retailers and those involved in tourism in the region are invited to attend the free briefing, which will see Minister Coveney providing an update on Brexit negotiations, his insights and also practical ways to begin preparing for Brexit.

The Brexit Breakfast information events are free of charge and all are welcome to attend, however registration is required by emailing simon.coveney@oir.ie or call 021 4374200
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Keep an eye out for Croíúil Trad group
from Rosscarbery and the Munster Champions U-12 Ceili Band from Bandon, both performing on next weekend's The Late Late Toy Show, airing on Friday, December 1 on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Jump to:

Top