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From Africa to Appalachia and the 5-String Banjo

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Cheick Hamala Diabate, Left and Sammy Shelor, Right. Photo Virginia Foundation for the HumanitiesRoanoke, VA -- Jefferson Center in partnership with the Virginia Folklife Program is proud to present “From Africa to Appalachia” on Thursday, January 14, 2016. The development of the 5-string banjo, among the very first truly American-born instruments, provides a revelatory lens on the development of American popular music and culture, and the immense contributions of African cultural traditions. The instrument we now know as the banjo was derived from lutes brought by enslaved Africans to the New World, most notably the West African n’goni and kora. The European violin (fiddle) and the African-derived banjo likely comprised “the first duet” in the New World, providing the cornerstone of American musical forms for centuries to come. Sammy shelor joins Cheick Hamala Diabate for this outstanding event.

Cheick Hamala Diabate has performed all over the world, relating the history of Mali in the 800-year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa. He has lectured and performed at venues like The Smithsonian Institution and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has collaborated with such performers as Béla Fleck, Salif Keita, Corey Harris, and Kandia Kouyate. His album “From Mali to America” (recorded with Bob Carlin) was nominated for a Grammy in 2007.

Sammy Shelor is a 5-time IBMA Award Winner for Banjo Performer of the Year, the 2011 Winner for the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and a Virginia Country Music Hall of Famer. Leader of the Lonesome River Band, Shelor has performed with a multitude of artists including country superstar, Alan Jackson.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Danny Knicely has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, and fiddle expertise, including first place in the mandolin contest at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival. His masterful mandolinistry and original compositions can be heard on his debut album “Roots and Branches” and his colorful, versatile, acoustic guitar picking can be heard on his latest release “Waltz for Aimee”.

Tickets are available at the Jefferson Center or by calling 540-345-2550.

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