Many people, including Tunde Folawiyo enjoy listening to country music; this genre originated in the rural areas of the USA’s southern states during the 1920s, and has its roots in folk and blues music. It is the combination of instruments which are used to perform it, that give country music its distinctive sound – items such as the fiddle, harmonica, acoustic and electric guitars,accordion and the banjo. The origins of some these instruments, and how they came to be used by musicians of this genre is quite fascinating.
Take, for instance the fiddle; this is thought to have been brought to the USA by British immigrants. The musically-inclined people of the southern states were introduced to it by travelling schoolteachers, peddlers and preachers, who would bring this light, portable instrument around with them, not only to entertain others, but also to keep themselves amused whilst journeying through the more remote areas of the country. The first recorded country music performance to include the fiddle was made in 1922, by A.C. Robertson; from this point onwards, the fiddle came to define the sound of this particular genre.
The banjo was introduced to the USA during the 17th century by Africans; it quickly became the instrument of choice amongst musicians of the south, and by the 1800s, Joel Walker Sweeny had begun to tour the east coast, performing songs on his banjo which would later come to define early country music. This instrument allowed musicians who favoured the genre to create a finger-picking technique which is now known as ‘claw-hammer’; this is achieved by using a fingernail to strike a string downwards, and then using the nail of the thumb to pluck it upwards.
As a fan of this genre, Tunde Folawiyo might know that, for quite some time, the fiddle and the banjo – along with the accordion and the harmonica – were the only instruments used in country music. Up until the 1930s, musicians in the southern states were somewhat purist, refusing to introduce things such as drums into their performances. This all changed however, in 1935, when Bob Wills, a big band leader, decided to include drums in the Texas Playboys performances. This led to greater acceptance of this instrument in this genre, and by the sixties, it was rare to see a concert by a country music band which didn’t feature a set of drums.