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T H U R S D A Y

Those familiar with the banjo’s history tend not to regard it the whitest of instruments (that would be virginal, thank you). After all, it is well-known that today’s wooden-hoop five-strings descended from West African gourd-bodies. But the banjo’s Caucasian rep isn’t too tough to understand. Why wouldn’t African-Americans be quick to dump the ax that became synonymous with blackface? What North Carolina folklore prof Cecilia Conway uncovers in African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia is how rich and protracted the handoff was. As a grad student in Chapel Hill in the ’70s, she met and recorded several remaining black old-time pickers in the Carolina piedmont, throwing open the doors on a mysterious and hidden area of American musical history. Conway reads from Echoes at 7 p.m. at Borders, 18th & L Sts. NW. FREE. (202) 466-4999. (GD)

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