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Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo

11 Jan 17 - 12:27 PM (#3831934)
Subject: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: Neil D

This thread name is actually the title of a fascinating documentary I just watched. It tells the story of Dina Epstein, a music librarian who, after decades of painstaking research, mostly in obscure source material, was able to prove that the banjo was an African instrument brought over by slaves, placing her at odds with the established music academia of the day. Today, her work, the book "Sinful Tunes and Spirituals" and several articles, is considered groundbreaking by academics and musicians alike, and primarily responsible for a black string band revival.
I enthusiastically recommend this film as informative and inspirational. You can rent it from Amazon for a couple bucks. I would also be interested in comments from Catters who are familiar with Dina's work. Some here may have even known her. She worked for the University of Chicago and may have had some connection to the Old Town School of Folk Music. At least one scene from the film, where Dina meets with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, was shot there.


12 Jan 17 - 10:16 AM (#3832088)
Subject: RE: Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: leeneia

I watched the trailer, Neil. There seems to be a lot more interest in conflict than in music. I'm tired of all that.


12 Jan 17 - 10:59 AM (#3832094)
Subject: RE: Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: GUEST,Sam

I remember one called "The Librarian and Long Dong" I was at college then, what a movie.


12 Jan 17 - 11:47 AM (#3832107)
Subject: RE: Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: gillymor

What a fascinating and inspirational film (not the one mentioned by GUESTSam above). The maker packed so much interesting stuff into just 55 minutes. The last scene was sublime. I'm going to get down my gourd banjo and learn some of those old songs. Thanks for the link and BTW it's no charge if you have Amazon Prime.


12 Jan 17 - 12:08 PM (#3832116)
Subject: RE: Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: Jack Campin

She seems to have used the spelling "Dena" more often. You get better results from Google with that, anyway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dena_Epstein

I'm pretty sure I've seen posts from her on forums, but probably not this one.


17 Jan 17 - 09:59 PM (#3833272)
Subject: RE: Documentary Film: The Librarian and the Banjo
From: Neil D

Ah Leeneia, how are we to right a wrong without a bit of conflict. In this case, we're not talking about pistols at 20 paces. It was just that the information she brought to light flew in the face of conventional academic wisdom. It doesn't seem like it took very long for most to accept her version of the banjo's origins, mostly because of the overwhelming depth of her research.
You're right Jack. I did misspell her name. That's what I get for relying on memory. LOL.