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Bluegrass Time!

Bill Monroe-the King of Bluegrass



Flatt and Scruggs



Seldom Scene


I think Bluegrass is way more fun to listen to than country 'country'

I love bluegrass as well as traditional country. Truth be told,I love all "roots" oriented music (reggae,folk,indigenous music) There's a "realness" found in these genres of music not found in more commercial forms of music

Gotta Love Doc Watson!


Talk about some Bluegrass masters!

..a little "fast grass"'s THAT Steve Martin!


African roots of bluegrass

What Toronto roots/jazz banjo virtuoso Jayme Stone doesn't know about his instrument probably isn't worth knowing.

A student of both Béla Fleck, the world's best known explorer of the banjo's inestimable versatility, and of Fleck's teacher, avant-garde banjo pioneer Tony Trischka, in New York, Stone has learned just about everything he needs to know in order to make his way confidently in the world with this ancient and complex five-stringed instrument, a staple of American folk music and a necessity in every bluegrass band.

That's what he thought until he made a recent six-week trip to Mali, in West Africa, courtesy of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship. There he came across two instruments – primitive ancestors of the modern banjo – that apparently have never been seen or played by Western musicians.

"The first is the ngoni, one of the oldest instruments in Mali, with three to nine strings, depending on the region where it's made, and a wooden resonator covered by a stretched goatskin," Stone said in an interview last Friday. "It has no frets, and uses gut strings or fishing line, but the sound, the tuning, and even the drone string – the fifth one that ends halfway up the neck – are exactly the same as the contemporary banjo."

A more genuine rarity is the konou, a two-stringed lute built and used almost exclusively in Mali's desolate, craggy sandstone Dogon country. The playing technique, Stone observed, is identical to the traditional North American "clawhammer" style made famous by Pete and Mike Seeger.


Financed by a Canada Council grant to study with Trischka, Stone eventually found himself in the company of Fleck, his unwitting mentor and a famously unwilling teacher.

"He just doesn't take students," Stone said. "I was persistent ... and keen."

Stone's passion for the banjo – and for African music as well as free-form jazz – is abundantly evident in his first solo album, The Utmost, which will be launched tomorrow night at Hugh's Room with an ensemble performance that includes guitarist Grant Gordy, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, mandolin wizard Andrew Collins, cellist Mile Olsen and bassist Paul Mathew.

That passion led to his recent voyage of discovery.

"I knew the banjo came from West Africa, and that some were brought to North America on slave ships, and others were constructed by African musicians from memory and with materials they found here," Stone continued.

"But history has almost completely buried the origins of this instrument. And until recently there has been no passion in the West for African banjo music."

Bill Monroe-Father of Bluegrass

.The young Monroe also worked with a black musician, Arnold Shultz, in a rare integrated duo, playing segregated dances in the 1920s.

"I tell you, me and him played for a dance one night," Monroe said. "We started, you know, at sundown, and the next morning at daylight, we was still playing music. All night long. 'Course that automatically meant you'd be dancing on Sunday. But that is really the truth."


Monroe continued absorbing black and white musical traditions throughout the 1930s, closing in on the style that would become bluegrass.


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