With February being Black History Month, I’ve been doing a lot of music and history around that theme. The banjo came from Africa and made its way through some changes to Appalachia. Classes have been doing songs on the African Akonting and Ngoni then banjos from the minstrel era. I have added several drums to the African themes. Students take turns on the Jembe, gourd drum, Udu clay drum, and the bamboo slit drum. Students have also helped tell Brer Rabbit stories, which we have recorded for radio. You can listen to these stories during Kids Radio on WMMT at 88.7 FM.
Our classes are also in the midst of a cultural exchange in coordination between myself and a music teacher from Pennsylvania. Her Hispanic students and our students here in Knott County will be sharing the others’ culture. Currently, both our classes are playing “canjos,” a long stick neck attached to a vegetable can.
Hometown24, Hindman’s local TV station, is doing a series of video recordings of me doing story telling- Tales from Here to Kingdom Come. We have completed about 3 one half hour programs so far. I have also written a folk tale, The Flower of the Dew, from a collection of stories from Gander, Ky in the 1930’s. I took pieces of stories, historical accounts, and sayings from a journal I keep of local sayings to weave together in a story. We’ll be sharing videos as they air on our Facebook and Twitter.
Another project of late is my work recording some of the traditional musicians from the area–April Allen and Jack Bunch. April plays the mountain dulcimer; she learned as a youngster in Alabama. She has a unique way of playing tunes along with chords up and down the neck of the instrument. Besides the traditional tunes she comes up with many original melodies for the dulcimer. I keep a recorded folder of her pieces to keep for an eventual CD and to put on radio. Jack Bunch is a traditional banjo and fiddler from Laurel County, Ky. He is the keeper of Laurel County fiddle and banjo tunes–tunes and tunings only found in that county. Jack learned from his kin and has been playing since he was about 12 years of age.
I hope folks can come down and join us at the Hindman Settlement School and take part in our weekly community dulcimer lessons on Monday evenings and our old-time jam on Wednesday evenings!