Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The banjo era

The banjo era arrived to Valparaiso during and after the Great War (1914). Most instruments were brought earlier from the States (Vega, Harmony, Kay) and later from Europe (Holland, Germany). Earlier instruments were the tenor banjo from the Dixieland era along with a few banjolins. These smaller instruments adquiring soon much popularity with the local protestant pentecostal choirs and churchgoers. Then, a few local makers started to make banjolins for these choirs simplifying the resonator and the rim.
Banjolins are indeed mandolins with a skinny top and those such as the photograph left are of the traditional make with a heavy resonator typical from the Dixieland era. Others such as the one seen at the far right in the photograph above are rather a middle simplified shape close to those found currently in the local market, half of them locally made and the other half generic brands imported from China .
Finally, the 5 string or bluegrass banjo is a rather rare sight but it is found from time to time with no name brands from 1910's onwards with earlier trapdoor resonator (photograph left) or much recently with generic asian brands such as the one seen at the top photograph on the left.