Banjo the musical instrument of African origin is used all over the world

JStringed instruments are the softest and most pleasant musical instruments to hear compared to other instruments. Thus, Banjo, a stringed instrument originating in Africa, is appreciated all over the world by music enthusiasts. It consists of a thin membrane illustrated on a cavity to sound like a resonator. The shape of the membrane is circular and is usually formed from plastic or sometimes animal skin. Previously, the shapes of this instrument were designed by the African-American community. This instrument can be used especially with folk and country music to explore the flavor of this genre. However, this instrument can also be used with rock, pop and hip-hop songs.


In the modern, the banjo instrument derives from the Caribbean, because in the 17th century many slaves were taken from West Africa. Banjo’s written references were seen in North America in the 18th century. Around the second quarter of the 19th century, this instrument was used commercially all over the world. Several claims have been made about the etymology of the name “banjo”. Many people say that it originated from the working mbanza of the Kimbundu dialect. While the Oxford Dictionary states that it is derived from the dialectal types of a Portuguese word bandore.

Various instruments from Africa have been popularized all over the world, but Kora is the chief among them. This instrument is also presented with the animal skin and the body gourd. The African banjo is different from early African-American banjos because they do not consist of the Western-style fingerboard and chord keys in their neck. However, they consist of stick sleeves with strings tied into the sleeves with loops for adjustment. Therefore, banjos with pegs and fingerboards originated from Caribbean music belonging to the early 17th century. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, authors transcribed this instrument under various names such as banza, bonjaw, banjer, bangie, and banjar. Additionally, instruments with a similar type of banjo were also used in many countries such as the Japanese shamisen, Moroccan sintir, and Chinese sanxian.



Mainly, two techniques are closely followed for playing the five-string banjo, namely drones and rolls. In the roll technique, a player must use the right hand for the accompanying fingerings with all eight notes and these can be subdivided in each measure. On the other hand, the drone technology is followed with small fast notes played on the 5th string for the melodic result. These two techniques are idiomatic for playing the banjo with all styles. However, the story says that the banjo was played with the help of the claw hammer style by the Africans and they brought their version of the banjo with them.

Several other styles are also present to play this fantastic banjo instrument. In the claw hammer style, it consists of the hammering of one or more strings using the middle finger, index finger and thumb. Notes that are played by the thumb are generally used to play the offbeat sound for listeners. Banjo melodies are very much associated with the banjo playing style. Thus, each style would consist of a different type melodious tone of the same instrument.

Types of Banjos

In modern times, the banjo comes in different forms including four and five string versions of banjos. However, the six-string banjo with the chord edges has grown in popularity because it can be played similar to the guitar. Also, almost all types of banjos are played by a fast plectrum that goes through different styles of playing. The five-string banjo has variations from the original design. Banjo players use many chords for the fantastic playful journey of music. The most commonly used tuning is bluegrass, which has the open G tuning with G3D3G4D4.

On the other hand, the tenor banjo is the most soulful and melodic banjo instrument. It consists of the shortest neck with the 17 by 19 frets played with the plectrum. The tenor banjo was a rhythm instrument for dance bands in the early 20th century. The volume and timbre of this type of banjo is required in early jazz. Additionally, the instrument can also be heard clearly with acoustic recordings. Some other types of banjo instruments are bass banjos, banjo mandolin, and banjo ukulele.

The banjo has become a popular instrument with its various styles and shapes all over the world. Moreover, people use it in various musical genres. However, there is some diversity on the origin of this instrument, but Africa is considered to be the origin of this instrument. Therefore, it can be expected that new types of musical compositions and songs can be heard through this instrument.

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