Do the opening notes of Dueling Banjos give you goosebumps? Then this event is for you.
The Vancouver Playhouse is set to host a unique tribute to the glories of the banjo – in Western music and beyond – on Saturday, Nov. 16. Bang Danjos, presented by the Vancouver Chinese Music Society, offers up a trio of virtuosos from different cultures, all of whom will be plucking away on variations of the banjo.
From Japan, fancy folk-plucker Hiroshi Yamaguchi will showcase the sounds of thetsugaru shamisen. Rarely heard in Vancouver, the three-stringed instrument resembles a banjo, with a long neck and hollow body covered with skin. The strings are struck with a special pick that also taps against the body to produce a percussive effect. An ancient instrument, the tsugaru shamisen is being revived by younger artists, who integrate traditional songs with pop, rock, jazz and blues.
Meanwhile, from China, Evelyn Chang will show her stuff on the sanxian. Sometimes called the “Chinese banjo,” the sanxian is a three-stringed, long-necked, fretless lute that plays an important role in traditional Chinese music. The rectangular body generally has a snakeskin front and back. It’s used in dramatic performances and as a solo instrument and produces a twangy sound, accentuated by rapid-fire rolls and long slides.
Finally, Vancouver’s own Nick Hornbuckle will showcase the banjo’s bluegrass potential. The familiar banjo of Dueling Banjos fame actually traces its roots to Africa. Modern banjos generally have four or five strings, with a body consisting of synthetic skin stretched over a cavity. Hornbuckle, who also plays with the local act The Jaybirds, incorporates both traditional bluegrass and influences as diverse as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin in his playing.