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Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck with 2 of the 7 banjos they play on their new album.
Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck with 2 of the 7 banjos they play on their new album.

A Night of Banjo Heaven

My nephew Reuben picked up the banjo about a year ago and enthusiastically learned how to play “Dueling Banjos,” so he was beside himself with excitement when I told him that two of the most amazing banjoists now playing – Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn – will be performing live on April 25th at the final 2015 Under the Beams concert, and that I’d gotten us tickets.

These two don’t “duel!” Most folks have heard of 15-time Grammy winner Béla Fleck, but not everyone has heard of Abigail Washburn. Abigail brings clawhammer banjo playing into the 21st Century with her refreshing pairing of that traditional style with world music forms. Fluent in Chinese, she has been named a TED fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach about building US-China relations through music.

So how did we have the wonderful opportunity to see them together? Well, they’re married, so there’s that.  Plus there is one other small, yet not at all insignificant factor in the timing: the birth of their son Juno. Says Fleck, “I come from a broken home, and I have a lot of musician friends who missed their kids’ childhoods because they were touring. The combination of those two things really made me not want to be one of those parents. I don’t want to be somebody that Juno sees only once in a while. We need to be together, and this is a way we can be together a whole lot more.”

The two of them blend the East of China with the West of Africa into a music that can only happen in America.

2016 Christmas in New Harmony

About Stephen Cochran

Steve's a librarian, gardener, musician, and bookbinder with a long New Harmony association. He's a utopian communitarian, and though rural, considers New Harmony to be his community. He currently is one of three people coordinating the annual Antiquarian Book and Paper Show.

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