BANJERS: GOURD BANJERS 1

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My first two gourd banjers were 4 stringers (3+1) made from the same oval-shaped gourd. The heads were literally in the shape of heads, tilted back, singing, reminiscent of a scroll shape. (If I had made the eyes closed they would have resembled Southwestern story tellers, but that’s for another day.) I gave one to my best friend, Robert Webb of Phippsburg, Maine. It’s surprising how many tunes we’ve discovered can be played on just 3 strings. (Tunings, melody strings: 1-5-5; 1-4-5; 1-5-7; 1-5-8; etc., with chanterelle tuned variously.) NFS [But you can hear it on my CD, track 16.]

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In the early years of the nineteenth century American society combined their rugged individualistic ways of doing things with exciting new ideas from the rest of the world. This 5-string instrument incorporates one of these fashionable elements: the paisley. The swirling “boteh” leaf shape of Persian design is integrated into the curvilinear peghead and brass tacks accent the edges. The entire neck is shellacked in a dark mahogany shade. This is probably not the most practical choice for a fretless neck but the right person will find the right solution. $500.

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This banjer was influenced by the early drawing attributed to Jamaica (or the Western Sudan: see my inquiry elsewhere) but with European-style pegs, albeit inserted from the front. It is another 3+1 stringer. It is the banjer on which I developed “Bonja Moan.” NFS

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Another 3+1 string instrument with a totemic eagle, or hawk, peghead of African inspiration. A simple, early style, integrating the essence of the European and African traditions. It is in spalted red maple and uses the other half of the gourd used for the “bonja.” $450. [You can hear this banjer on my CD, track 14.]

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