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Wednesday February 1st

Q&A with Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops in Durham, NC. Tintype photo
Buy Photos Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops in Durham, NC. Tintype photo

Banjo enthusiasts, historians and musicians alike are strumming their way to UNC for a banjo jamboree.

The Southern Folklife Collection is hosting “The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches,” a symposium and concert, on Saturday.

See the concert

When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Hall
For tickets:

Staff writer Deborah Strange talked with Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who will be one of the panelists and musicians in the program.

DAILY TAR HEEL: Why did you decide to participate in the program?

DOM FLEMONS: I’ve got a little bit of history in the area in Chapel Hill, and Wilson Library is one of the places I’d go to all the time.

We’re always more interested in the banjo and its history and bringing in more people to know about the music.

DTH: Is the event catered just to banjo fans, or could anyone follow along?

DF: It does sound like it’s very banjo-heavy and very specialized, but it really is a very multi-faceted history of our country. Anyone can join in.

Even if you can’t attend the panels, people should come to the concert because of the diversity of musicians and the diversity of music that’s played on the banjo. That’ll be just as interesting.

DTH: What will people be surprised to learn?

DF: How all-encompassing the history of the music is indeed, and just the history of our country. It’s a symbol for so many parts of what makes America great and horrible at the same time.

DTH: What are examples of that history?

DF: The easiest one to point out is the slavery … The banjo is the only instrument that has more or less stayed the same in terms of the basic idea of how it’s played and how it’s put together from Africa.

DTH: How does being a musician give you a different perspective from the professors and authors who will be at the symposium?

DF: One of the things that’s really helpful as a musician is being able to show as well as talk about it. You can say, “Oh, well, this technique is this that or the other,” and then you can play it.

Folks are all about hearing some history, but at the same time, not everyone’s going to be interested in just hearing about it. But when they hear audio, when they hear examples of what’s being played, they can get more into it.

DTH: How does knowing the history of the banjo affect the experience of playing it?

DF: My main thing is interpreting songs instead of writing songs. One of the things that informs me, it’s almost like a musical archeology … I learned from the history and seeing where some of these musical traditions come from.

That informs some of the ways I perform the song and some of the techniques I use when performing the song … It’s the knowledge that a certain musical tradition might inform in later musical tradition.

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