Gourd banjos are where it all begins. If you like an older style fretless banjo, then this is your choice. The volume is comparable to the minstrel banjo, but the gourd banjos have a deeper, more resonant or mellow tone. From the 17th century on, reports from the slave routes spanning theWest African coast to the Caribbean islands, we have references to folk instruments resembling the gourd banjo. In 1689 Sir Hans Sloane, a physician who thoroughly documented Jamaica's music, noted that the island's Africans have "strum-strums... several sorts of instruments in imitation of lutes, made of small boards fitted with necks, strung with horse hairs or the peeled stocks of climbing Plants or Withs." These he said, "are sometimes made of hollow'd Timber covered with Parchment or other Skin wetted, having a bow for its neck, the strings ty'd longer or shorter as they would alter their sounds." Such a "strum-strum" was likely the same as what Adrian Dessalles describes in his Histoire Genérales des Antilles (1678), called the "Banza," to which the slaves on Martinique "danced in their own style". (Translated and cited in Dena J. Epstein, "The Folk Banjo").
I am retiring to Arizona and giving up my shop. I will no longer be making banjos.
These samples are played on SOUNDCLOUD, a third party site, because this is the only way CoDaddy Web Builder would allow me to post them.