Banjo is one of the true American instruments. It's roots come from an instrument native to West Africa, the akonting. After arriving in America the akonting was mated to a flat fretboard seen on instruments like the mandolin and lute. The banjo has been described as the perfect cross between lyrical strings and rhythmic drums.
There are a bunch of ways to play the 5-string banjo. Tim Rowell spent a large part of his life learning about the American traditional roots music of the southern Appalachian mountains. One of the styles of playing the banjo is called "clawhammer" and it refers to the motion and shape of the right hand as it plays melodies that can drive your feet to dancing.
The first rural bands were really just two musicians – one playing fiddle and the other playing banjo. Many of the early houses provided by the mining companies for their workers consisted of two rooms and a porch. Between these two rooms was a doorway and the two musicians would stand or sit in or near the doorway so that everyone could hear the music. It was generally the banjo's job to lay down a solid rhythmic and harmonic foundation while the fiddle often carried the melody. It’s easy to love the tunes from that region and time and the gut-wrenching simple honesty that they evoke.
If you'd like to learn how tho play this music, Tim is generally available for lessons at the The Real School of Music in Burlington, Massachusetts. He’s also been known to travel to students houses to give lessons as well. If you'd like to see/hear him before taking the leap, come hear Jubilee Mule plays at The Cantab Lounge in Cambridge on the third Tuesday of each month at 8:30 pm sharp. You can also find him haunting Old-Time Jams around town. We’ve included some MP3 files of Tim playing with his favorite fiddlers and other musicians on the "Tim's Mp3's" page. Please feel free to shoot him an eMail or check out his website Boston Banjo Teacher. And if all else fails, give him a call at 781-632-5990.