Cheick Hamala Diabate Charlotte Folk Society Presents
Black Banjo Reunion Concert
March 28, 2010
Dilworth United Methodist Church
605 East Blvd., Charlotte

(directions here)

Ebony Hillbillies

Black Banjo Concert 
In 2005, the Black Banjo Gathering: Then & Now convened at ASU in Boone, NC. Out of this event, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were born. The three young black musicians met each other and their mentor, now 91-year-old black Mebane fiddler Joe Thompson, at the Gathering. In the past five years, they've traveled to major venues and festivals all over this country and Europe.

Then the Charlotte Folk Society hosted a highly successful concert by and for the benefit of black musicians who needed travel money to come to NC. We turned folks away from the 250 seat venue where it was held.

Now, a Black Banjo Gathering Reunion is taking place at ASU in Boone, March 24-28. More on that Reunion is here.

The Charlotte Folk Society is partnering with the Harvey B. Gantt Center to present the Black Banjo Gathering Reunion Concert on Sunday, March 28th, 4 PM, Dilworth United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 605 East Boulevard. This concert will enable the musicians who perform to make the trip to NC to attend the Gathering Reunion in Boone. We have raised $1500 through patron donations to help support the concert. We're selling general admission tickets to the concert in the 500-seat church sanctuary for $15. Reserved seating in the front of the church is available for $25. We hope this pricing will make the concert as accessible as possible to a large, diverse audience.

Performers will represent the continuum of music inspired by the banjo and its ancestors, from West Africa to New Orleans:

Cheick Hamala Diabate, from Mali, in West Africa, is a world-renowned master of the ngoni, a stringed lute -- one of the banjo's ancestors. A steward of the 800-year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa, he shares the oral history, music, and song of his culture as it was passed on to him from birth, from parent to child. Now living in Washington, D.C., Cheick has explored the connection between the ngoni and banjo through collaborations with Bela Fleck and Bob Carlin. Cheick's recording of banjo duets with Carlin, From Mali to America, was nominated in 2007 for a GRAMMY for Best Traditional World Music Album. Sample Cheick's recordings and videos here.

The Ebony Hillbillies, one of the last black stringbands in the United States and the only one based in New York City, is a four-piece band, led by fiddler Henrique Prince and banjo and dulcimer player Norris Bennett. Along with William "Salty Bill" Salter on bass and A. R. on washboard and percussion, 'Rique and Norris create an untamed and joyful vibe that echoes across generations and transcends all racial and cultural boundaries. The Hillbillies keep an important legacy alive with a rootsy, homegrown style that many forget was a key element in the genesis of all the music we cherish as uniquely American -- jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock and roll, and country. Bringing a fresh urgency to the genre for a 21st century world in need of some deep musical education, wherever The Hillbillies play -- whether on the subway platform at Grand Central Station, in Carnegie Hall, at the International Bluegrass Music Association, or on the Martha Stewart Show, they grab hold of their audiences and don't let go! The band has two CDs to their credit: Sabrina's Holiday and I Thought You Knew. Check out their performances here and

Don Vappie, jazz banjoist extraordinaire, was born in New Orleans and is descended from a long line of New Orleans musicians that goes back to the nineteenth century. Once a featured performer in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, he now leads and tours with the Creole Jazz Serenaders. With the Serenaders, Don’s music incorporates the musical legacy of the New Orleans Creole culture, a society that sprang from the mixture of French, Spanish, African, and American Indian people with strong ties to the Caribbean islands. Vappie, known for his original banjo style, also plays mandolin, guitar, string bass and is a vocalist as well. Having been recently nominated to the Four String Banjo Hall of Fame, he has also transcribed many early jazz recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and others. He was also chosen by the Historic New Orleans Collection to serve as Musical Director for the premier of their newly discovered Jelly Roll Morton compositions. Over the past ten years, Don has appeared as a regular guest with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Learn more about Don Vappie here.

Rounding out the bill will be Tony Thomas, from Miami, Florida. He is an African-American banjoist, scholar, and the convener of the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering.