Friday, August 28, 2009

Throw down your heart.

If we stay cooped up in this house much longer, I will be able to play the banjo too. RGs fingers roll as clear as crystal and every note peels forth with all this practice.

This reminds me that tomorrow night in Winston-Salem, a screening of Bela Fleck's new documentary, Throw down your heart is being shown at Old Salem. Bela and Sasha Paladino went to Africa for five months a couple of years ago to play and interact with current Africa musicians. Sasha filmed and Bela played.

The banjo, so important to North Carolina and Americana music is a derivative of the African instrument. The doc followed multiple Grammy Award-winning banjo player Bela Fleck as he traveled through four African countries exploring their musical traditions and jamming with local artists with his banjo. Along the way he discovers perhaps the instrument's early roots, which traveled along with the slaves to America.

"Sascha was very smart by not letting me meet the musicians before taping because that magical moment can never be created again," said Fleck about meeting the African musicians, many of whom lived in small remote villages. "The biggest impact of my experience there was having to learn the music I was playing there [on the spot]. I've noticed that after that Africa trip, my music has broadened."

And the music's cool too on the trailers, teasers, interviews and website. Go see it. I'm going to ask my facebook friends and see if anyone wants to be the limo driver. We really don't want to miss this.

We will have to wait for the Merlefest to talk to Bela again. But I have to tell you this. Many years ago, PJ's Dad and I were invited to dinner to meet him after one concert in Hickory and somehow the ex "forgot". That was surely a sign of things to come. But, later, I finally heard Bela play with the Flecktones in Hickory for the first time and I was entranced. I'm not sure Acoustic Stage still is in Hickory, but it was a wonderful non-profit group for a college town.

I followed Bela to Merlefest with my first au pair in Elkin not knowing what in the world it was. It was a banjo festival that year. We sat up front that evening in the only two vacated chairs. Bela, Earl Scruggs and about everybody you know who picks a banjo was up there on stage. I decided I liked the banjo even played traditionally. A few years later, when I found RG, my observation was he has dark hair like Bela and oh my goodness, is that banjo heavy. He must be strong. He must be something special and he was/is/will be.

I told Bela Fleck at a recent Merlefest that I missed eating dinner with him in Hickory, that he introduced me to the beauty of the banjo and if I hadn't been so curious to see Bela every year at Merlefest, I'd have never found RG. Its his fault.

Film: Throw Down Your Heart (Bela Fleck goes to Africa to explore banjo's roots)
Day: This Saturday
Time: 7pm
Place: St. Phillips Church at Old Salem

Followed by Live Music!

This is an interesting place for this showing. The Moravians were the first settlers of the Salem area. They discovered the Cherokee at Mulberry Fields. They did not take sides during the Revolution. They kept records and were a source of news for other settlers in colonial America. Their homes in Winston-Salem rival Williamsburg. Their brass band music is world famous since the beginning of their arrival here.

Bethabara and Bethania still stand and were key townships of my overmountain story of 1780. The prisoners from Kings Mountain were taken there to be delivered to continental forces. There are many tales yet to be told of the Moravians in NC. The biggest one is probably how do you keep the peace during a revolution?

At that time, African and Moravian people worshiped together. After the war and after some time things changed. It was determined that the African people needed their own place. I don't know who really decided that. It doesn't sound particularly good if the community were successfully integrated, that integration would be a good idea. But does integration mean giving up your original culture and so is it somehow better not to integrate?

Slavery was not solved by the Revolution. The question rose and fell to be decided another day nearly a century later. We still feel the effects.

How do you take sides? How do you not take sides? How do you celebrate your uniqueness? How do you at the same time retain your united family? Is one culture subject to another? Is one shameful compared to another? Is one "better" and one left to be forgotten. Is it better to live separate from the world or in the world. Which is it?

It must be good to just be diverse and in one community.

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