Charlie Poole Festival to Feature the African Origins of the Banjo

The African origins of the banjo will be one of the prominent themes during the exciting Friday night concert at this year’s Charlie Poole Music Festival, to be held June 10-11 in Eden, North Carolina.
Mali, West Africa, musician Cheick Hamala Diabate will showcase his mastery of both the n’goni (the African ancestor of the banjo) and the modern banjo.  Also headlining the performance this year will be master clawhammer banjoist, Bob Carlin.  Both Carlin and Diabate will receive this year’s CPMF Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2007 they collaborated on the Grammy-nominated album “From Mali to America,” and will perform on Friday night both separately and together, in a reflection of the important careers of both entertainers.

Another featured performer will be Seth Swingle, last year’s winner of the CPMF Old-Time Three Finger Banjo Championship.  Seth, as a Fulbright Scholar, has studied under Diabate, and will join him and Carlin, as, among the three of them, they perform singularly and together for a full evening of rich traditional music.  As if that were not enough, leading off the Friday evening concert will be the highly popular old time band from Greensboro, NC, The Zinc Kings.  The dance floor will be down and ready for everyone to kick up their heels and enjoy.

Once the dust settles on Friday night’s event, the festival continues, bright and early on Saturday, with the highly respected contests featuring youth vocal and instrument, and individual adult categories in multiple acoustic instruments and vocal, plus old-time and bluegrass band categories.  

The evening is capped off with the Old Time Three-Finger Banjo Championship, and, by popular demand, there will be an “open mic” interlude while everyone waits for the votes to be counted and the winners announced.  All of this happens in the very neighborhood where Charlie Poole lived and worked, when he wasn’t out rambling and making world-changing music back in the 1920s and 30s. 

For those musicians, young and old and all points between, who wish to brush up on their skills or learn new techniques, there will be several special workshop offerings on Saturday, during the festival.  For young folks, there will be a Youth Band Workshop offered, with a special opportunity for participants to perform onstage at its conclusion.  And, for the banjo enthusiasts attending, whatever their genre, three different workshops will focus on the three different playing styles featured at the Charlie Poole Festival.  Seth Swingle, reigning champion of the Old Time 3-Finger Banjo contest will present that style in an afternoon workshop; Don Wright will present bluegrass style banjo; and, Riley Baugus will offer his expertise in clawhammer style banjo. 

Food and other vendors will be on site for the festival, with lots of home-cooked treats and handmade treasures.  Visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs.  Assistance is available for those who need help in getting into the venue.  Camping is free to festival goers.  Tickets are $15 for Friday night’s concert; $15 for all day Saturday; or $25 for a weekend pass.  This project is supported by the N.C. Arts Council and the Rockingham County Arts Council, as well as the Rockingham County Partnership for Economic and Tourism Development, and the City of Eden Tourism Development.  

For more information, you may call 336-623-1043 or email

No comments: