Bela Fleck

Until recently, the only banjo players I could have named were Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and my Dad. Shows what I knew. Now I know about Bela Fleck and his documentary, “Throw Down Your Heart.”

Bela Fleck is a Grammy Award winning banjo player and has been nominated for Grammy Awards in more categories than any other musician ever. And he made this great documentary because a lot of folks think of the Southern United States and white guys when they think of banjos. The banjo is derived from an African instrument that was brought over here by slaves. Bela Fleck wanted people like me who didn’t know any of this to learn about it, so he went to Africa with his banjo, a fellow who is great at recording live music, and a few camera operators, in search of people to play music with him. They went to Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Senegal.

And boy, did they find musicians who were eager to play! It was very interesting to see how the banjo could be played along with things like the finger piano (I didn’t know what that was before seeing this film) and other instruments. There were times I heard some jazz and some blues.

Bela Fleck has even been touring this year with some of the people he met in Africa. I learned that on his website.

Besides enjoying learning about and listening to the music in the documentary, I also learned a bit of African history and tidbits about the culture of some of his hosts. I love seeing how people live in other countries-what they wear, what they eat and how it’s prepared, burial customs-all of it. If you like music, history or anthropology, I think you would probably like “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart.”

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