The Story of Banjo Earth

This short film explains the motivations and mission behind the Banjo Earth project. We’re really excited about the next adventure to India in April of 2018. Help us create an amazing work of art by backing Banjo Earth: India at – https://andyeversole.com/be-india

Much Love to you all, Andy Eversole & Banjo Earth

Video by the amazing Paul Byun

After Some Trials and Tribulations, Banjo Earth is Back and Going to India!!!

I hope you are all off to a great 2018. Though times have been strange and difficult lately in our country, and all around the world, we’re still here to share humanity with each other. Cherish your friends and family, the work you get to do daily, and enjoy your life while you have it.
The last 13 months for me personally have been crazy! A car zoomed into my lane and ran me off the highway, totaling my car. Miraculously, I stepped out of the car only with minor injuries, and was able to walk away with another chance at life.

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Ouch! Thank you God!

Four Months later, I lost a fight with a lawnmower and chopped off the end of left ring finger. This is a finger that I use more than any other in my banjo playing. Obviously, this has had an enormous effect on my style and proficiency, but I’ve continued to try to work around it and make music that people enjoy nonetheless. In other words, I fought the lawn and the lawn won!

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The lawn won

With all that behind, I’ve realized that it is even more urgent to do the work I do around the world. To do what I do best, and use my talents for the good of all. Making music, sharing culture, showing how we can create More love and understanding with each other…

So, I’m back at it with Banjo Earth, and we’re headed to India for Part II of the series. Going to China for Part I was such an incredible experience, and the ripple effects have reached far and wide. Many of you were a creative force in that project and I thank you for helping make that happen.

This time around we are partnering with several organizations and businesses which will help cover some of the expenses. In addition, we have created a Kickstarter campaign, now in progress, which allows you to Pre-Order at various levels. If you believe in what we are doing here, believe in me, or just enjoy some really good music and videos from around the world, then please consider backing our project on Kickstarter – http://bit.ly/banjoearth – You will play a vital role in the mission to bring “Peace through Music. Community through Creation.”, and will be helping us create the best project possible. Thank you all so much for being you, and for being a part of Banjo Earth. Shine On!

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Much Love, Andy Eversole, Banjo Earth
Click this link to visit our Kickstarter Campaign – http://bit.ly/banjoearth

Banjo Earth w/ Abigail James- Omie Wise

The Story of Little Omie Wise

by Andy Eversole

North Carolina is a treasure trove when it comes to myths, legends, and the aural traditions that tell them. Musical storytelling, the method of conveying historical events through song, is one of these aural traditions. Through music, the story, which is often a true historical event, is able to be passed on, from generation to generation, allowing history to live and breathe. One of my favorites of this genre, and North Carolina’s oldest murder ballad, is the sad tale of Omie Wise.

The story is told a couple different ways, and there are at least 2 completely different versions of the song, but here is the gist. Naomi was murdered by John Lewis in 1808 in Randolph County, North Carolina. She was an orphan girl, who was being raised by Squire William Adams and his wife Mary. John Lewis, who lived in Guilford County, would ride his horse to work in Randolph Co. at the beginning of each week, then back home for the weekend. Along his route was the Adams farm, where he would stop by and court the beautiful Omie. This apparently continued until she became pregnant.

Coming from a well-to-do family, John Lewis’s mother had plans for him to court another woman, Hettie Elliot, whose family was also in “high standing”. Rather than deal with an illegitimate child from an orphan girl, Lewis decided to murder Omie and dispose of her body in the Deep River, near Randleman, NC.

Once everyone noticed that Omie was missing, Mr. Adams gathered a search group and followed the horse tracks down the spring. There they found her beaten, pregnant body floating in the river. A woman later testified she heard screaming in that area the night of the murder.

John Lewis was found and brought to jail. Only one month later, he escaped and traveled to Kentucky, where he soon started a new family. Several men, including the Sheriff, were arrested for aiding John’s escape.

Word soon got back to Randolph County concerning John’s whereabouts, and they demanded he be returned and tried for his crimes. He was brought back to North Carolina from Kentucky, and remained in jail from 1811 until 1813 awaiting his trial. Despite overwhelming evidence and eye witnesses, when brought before the court he was only tried for escaping jail, and not for the murder of Naomi Wise. He was found guilty and spent 47 days in jail, after which, he was a freed and traveled back to Kentucky.

No one knows for sure who killed Omie, as there was never a confession. However, legend has it that John Lewis confessed to Omie’s murder on his deathbed. He died on April 25, 1817 of unknown causes.

Special Notes
*Naomi Wise is buried at Providence Friends Home, in Randleman, NC. You can actually visit her grave, which is nestled in a cemetary right across the road from the Church. As we filmed the video, we were told by a member of the Church that back then her burial was very controversial. Because of her circumstances in pregnancy out of wedlock, none of the churches wanted to accept her burial. Providence Friends Home, a Quaker meeting place, took her in, and there she rests to this day.

*In this case, the song, Little Omie, could have actually played a part in the arrest of John Lewis. It is said that someone became quite agitated as a musician played the ballad in a bar in Kentucky. After a little investigating, it was found that the overly disturbed man was John Lewis himself, and the incident was instrumental in bringing him back to North Carolina to face trial. I’m not sure if this part of the story is true, but it does add a wrinkle to the tale…

*I first heard the song played by the great Doc Watson, a legendary North Carolina musician. My version is based on his, but with different instrumentation. The Banjo Earth version features Abigail James on vocals and me on banjo. The video was filmed in the graveyard where Omie is buried, and in the exact location of the Deep River where she is said to have been found.

Banjo Earth w/ Abigail James – Omie Wise
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzRYdTEb_2I

-sources found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omie_Wise
-historical consulting by David Long

 

 

Banjo Earth: China – Reuben

What happens when you take a banjo to China, play an old African melody, and jam with a Mongolian badass? Here is the video of Reuben from Banjo Earth: China!

Reuben was recorded in Dali, China, in a one-hundred year old wooden structure. We were invited to record in this amazing place, and introduced to Gawa, the Mongolian throat singer and instrumentalist featured in the film, by some mutual wonderful friends. It was an amazing night of music, collaboration, stories, food, and fun! I hope you enjoy. Read the blog post HERE.

A Scottish Love Affair

Scotch – Not for the Youngsters, but for the Young at Heart

By Andy Eversole

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Scotch Whiskey. Your Dad probably sips it. Your Grandfather likely had a bottle stashed away in a cupboard somewhere, ready for special occasions, from which your Grandmother snuck nips. It’s the kind of libation that rarely finds its way to the drink counter of a party, or the open bar of a wedding. Perhaps this is due to its price tag ($40/50 on one end, $5,000+ on the other), or maybe it’s just the imported nature of it. Whatever the reasons, Scotch is something you have to seek out, to learn about, to experience. The complexities of the flavors, and the history that this drink tells, is something that I am only beginning to understand. But I feel the kilt is being lifted, and I am slowly but surely getting a glimpse of the magic that is underneath.

 

I was born in Harlan, Kentucky, where it is mythicized that we drink bourbon out of baby bottles. This was not me, however. When I became old enough to drink, you know, 16 years old at high school camping parties, while everyone else was drinking Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey, I was doing my best to get down doses of Zima and Budweiser (If you don’t know what Zima is, consider yourself lucky.) My palette and my body were just not ready for the hard stuff. And, I have to say, that ended up being a good thing. But now that I’m deep into my 30s, I’ve seen many strange things. I’ve been around the world. I’ve had loved ones pass away. I’ve lived through several American presidential elections. Now, with this accumulation of life experience, I think that I am finally able to sit down, relax, and really appreciate and enjoy a good glass of Scotch Whiskey.

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Looking out over the North Sea

The first mention of scotch comes from 1495 in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which are records of royal income and expenditure. The literature reads, “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt”. John Cor was a distiller in the Country of Fife, and the above record documents eight bolls of malt be given to him by the king for distillation. This was enough malt to produce 1,500 bottles, suggesting that the process was quite robust at this point. According to this document and historians, the original name was Aqua Vitae, which is Latin for “Water of Life”. The name is evidence of the reverence the Scottish people and culture have for this holy concoction.

 

History aside, you’ve never really had the full experience of a glass of scotch until you’ve sat down in a pub, in the country of origin, and ordered from the source. I was lucky enough to visit Scotland this past summer, and promptly upon arrival, found the first watering hole. “What al ya have?” in that wonderful Scottish accent, echoes from behind the bar. Since I have been doing my research on the plane ride over, I know what I’m looking for. “Ardbeg”, I say, “and a Scottish Ale”, as my southern Appalachian accent begins to take on Scottish undertones. “Aye”, says the bartender. I take that first smoky, rich, complex sip, and the hair on my arms stands at attention. As it slides down my throat and warms my soul, I turn to the old lad next to me at the bar, ready to share some stories.

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You can taste the history in a glass

Banjo Earth: China – Chapter 30 – “Until Next Time” (blog)

The last day of Banjo Earth has arrived! It has been a long and extremely exciting month. We have worked very hard, and created some spirit-filled art. Many places, friends, and smiles have graced our path along this journey. Things went mostly right, and when they didn’t, were fixed quickly. We learned many lessons along the way: things to do and not to do in China, foods to order and foods not order, things to say and things not to say. Every day was full of new and surprising adventures, incredible music, and life altering experiences. This trip and project have been way more than expected. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, as the idea was pretty far out. Combining bluegrass and old time American music on the banjo with such a rich and deep Chinese musical culture could be wonderful, or it could be a disaster. Even I, the project’s creator, had my doubts. But as soon as I landed on Chinese soil and got to work, things started falling into place immediately.

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Things really fell into place

I could never have foreseen all the awesome adventures and musical collaborations that would ensue. The hospitality of everyone along our way was immense and genuine. Without the help and generosity of our Chinese hosts along the way, this project would have not been possible. I feel truly blessed to have been able to conceive of this project, bring it to fruition, and execute it the way we did. I am extremely thankful to all of the friends and family that helped me get it off the ground, into orbit, and see it through. It is truly a project that has taken a village to create! Ben has done an excellent job of filming and photographing the adventures, recording the music, and being a friend and travel partner. It’s hard to think of this project happening without him. My brother Ryan has been an huge part of the making the performances fun, and despite being dropped into a completely unfamiliar environment, has performed really well in the shows, recordings, and travels.   Banjo Earth: China is only the first installment in what is hopefully a long running series. I can see this project carrying over into countries all over the world, spreading that Banjo Love to the farthest corners of the planet. I’m really excited to see how this album and movie turn out, and even more excited about the possibilities for Banjo Earth in the future.

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What a journey!

With all of these thoughts swirling around in my mind, we welcome a friend into town today. I met a lovely lady in LiJiang, about two weeks ago, who lives near Shanghai. She has decided to come spend the day with us, and grace us with her vivacious spirit. She shows up in a sparkling purple dress and fedora hat, and as soon as I see her, I know we are in for a fun evening. Her name is Weng Liang Liang, or Fiona for short, and her energy lights up the city. She lives in Hangzhou, and catches a 40 minute bullet train to Shanghai. I greet her at the subway stop near our place, and we go to where everyone is chilling at the coffee shop, getting some internet work done.

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Liang Liang lights up Shanghai

After catching up, singing a song or two, and sharing some laughts, we head over to our new Airbnb spot for the evening to check in. As we arrive, everything goes smoothly until we find there is no key in the locked box. I send the homeowner a message, and 45 minutes later he shows up with the key. This could seem like an inconvenience, but Liang Liang has better ideas. She has an app on her phone that is so much fun, and she loves to use. It allows you to overdub videos onto preexisting music and talking. Our first performances include “Man in the Mirror” and “Everybody Loves Christmas”. This is way too much fun, and soon, we even get caught by some old ladies staring at us from the upstairs window of a nearby apartment! I realize quickly that this is an app I have to have on my phone. I’ve seen the American version, but the Chinese version is way weirder and cooler.

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Playing and singing some tunes in the coffee shop

We get into the place, settle in with some showers and fruit, and start stepping on the town. We have vague plans to find some food and visit the Pudong district, which is the financial section of Shanghai where all of the crazy and tall buildings reside, the most exciting being the purple space needle that dominates the skyline. After a few bites at Granny’s Kitchen, we catch the subway and head across the river. Aw we come out of the underground, the towers and funky shapes of Shanghai’s skyline take you by surprise. Not only is the space needle hovering over you, but close by is the Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world. It twists and turns up into the sky farther than any building I’ve ever seen.  We find our way to the space needle, get our tickets to go inside, and up we go. It is such a futuristic and funky looking building that I feel like I’m in a completely different world.

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The Oriental Pearl Tower

Once we get to the top and look out across this beautiful city, my heart sings a tune. Shanghai is vast, colorful, and alive. We walk around in a complete circle around the tower, catching an amazing view in every direction. There is even a walkway that is built out of glass that you can walk along, and look down some 300 meters straight to the ground. At first, it can give you pause to be suspended so high, by just a plate of glass, but soon I find my feet and Liang Liang are dancing to our own music above the city lights. The open air draft adds a nice touch to the environment, and gives one the feeling that they are suspended in the middle of the sky, which, in effect, is the truth.

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Looking out over the Huangpu River

After enjoying the needle so, we are all a bit tired, and head for home. We stop by to get some snacks and drinks for the house. Some sake, beer, fruit, meats, cheeses, and caramel candies fill the table. From there on we enjoy the evening, and each other’s company. We play and listen to some music, talk about life, laugh, and even make some more videos on Liang Liang’s phone. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the last evening of this epic Banjo Earth adventure. The Love is real. Keep making wonderful things in the world, and realize your dreams. Peace through Music. Community through Creation. Until next time, Andy

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The Love is real

Banjo Earth: China – Chapter 29 – “Shanghai Jazz” (blog)

Shanghai –

At about 7:30, whether we are ready to wake up or not, China awakes and the construction begins. You can start to hear hammering, yelling, laughing, beating on metal, and whatever other abrasive building sounds that exist. It is quite awesome, despite the need for some extra morning sleep, how quickly and efficiently the Chinese put up marvelous and extravagant buildings. One day, there is a huge hole in the ground, and many workers standing inside it, and the next day looks like nothing ever happened there.

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The old, the new, and the umbrellas

The Wifi in China is spotty at best, and I need to make some travel arrangements, including flights and Airbnb spots. So, Ryan and I head over to a nearby Starbucks where I’m sure they will have some internet and coffee. Coffee they do have, but no internet. We do discover a red bean paste scone that is surprisingly tasty however, so all is not lost. It’s a rainy day in Shanghai, and the umbrellas are out in numbers. Although I enjoy a good rain every now and again, this weather makes it impossible for me to carry the banjo around on my shoulder, in typical Banjo Earth style. So I reluctantly leave it at home, and we head off to the JZ jazz club, located in the embassy district, to meet Lulu.

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It’s a rainy Shanghai day

Lulu is a multi-dimensional entertainment powerhouse. Our friend “Famous” Kirk Kenney hooked us up with Lulu because we were looking for a singer to complete a Chinese folk song we’ve been working on. This seems to be the final piece of the Banjo Earth: China puzzle, and we are hoping we can get with Lulu and have her sing this part for the record. We meet her at the Jazz club where she is rehearsing with her band for an upcoming gig for the Mexican embassy. The band is hot and swinging, the club is swanky and lounge, like a hot Shanghai club straight out of the 1930’s. She runs through a few tunes on vocals and also does a little “Charleston” dance rehearsal. A grooving jazz band and a Chinese gal swing dancing is the last thing we expected to see once we got to Shanghai, but surprises have been around every corner on this journey.

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Rehearsal at the JZ Jazz club

Lulu happens to be a wonderfully talented singer, dancer, pin up model, burlesque performer, and just a really sweet and funny woman. We check her rehearsal for a bit, listen to our folk song, then head over to the Organic Kitchen next door for a snack and some conversation. She promises to give the song a try, though she is really busy, and we’re here for only two days, so we aren’t sure if we can “swing” it. Her friend Michael Jackson comes by, (he literally is Michael Jackson), and they take off. We head back toward our home on this rainy Shanghai day with some new adventures under our belt, and another new and talented Banjo Earth friend.

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Lulu – singer, dancer, and queen of Chinese Burlesque

After a short rest, we set out to find some dinner. This is the last night of the tour, so we seek out a nicer restaurant to enjoy some of the finer cuisine Shanghai has to offer. There is a place nearby the house, and given the rain, we find it a nice choice. We all order a couple of dishes, mainly just by looking at pictures, and wait to see what we have selected. I ordered a soup that had all kinds of crazy things in it that I have never seen before. This is the first thing that comes out, so we dig in. At first it’s not too bad, but the deeper we get into it, the stranger it becomes. The flavor of the soup is not like anything I have ever tasted, and not in the best way possible. The rue is a deep red, which sort of reminds me of blood, and tastes like it too. There are critters with spikes, tendons, livers, and some other unidentifiable matter. I can’t say this dish was a winner, and chalk it up to the win some/lose some philosophy. Maybe this can just be our Halloween present. Luckily, the rest of the dishes are pretty tasty, and I finally get that soup taste out of my mouth. In any case, we have a great time sharing the meal, having a few beers, and talking about our experiences in China. Ben’s ready to rest and get out of the rain. But as usual, I’m ready for some more, so I recruit Ryan to join me to a jazz club that isn’t too far away.

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The red mystery soup

Earlier at the jazz rehearsal, we befriended the bandleader, Alec. He is a guy from Connecticut who has been working in the music scene in Shanghai for about 10 years. He invited us out to his gig tonight at a place called the Wooden Box. We arrive and sit down for a drink. The room is really cool. It is small, round, and filled with glass windows. The have a jazz trio, which includes Alec on saxophone, a drummer, and bassist. They are all really great musicians, and the music is thoroughly enjoyable. I enjoy a whiskey, meet some new folks, and relax to some hot jazz grooves. It’s time to say goodnight, as the rain and jazz bring the night to a close. Shanghai is such a beautiful city. It is filled with music, wonderful people, incredible architecture, and food that will lift (and spook) your spirits. Tomorrow is our last day in China, and we’ve got some more adventures ahead of us. Goodnight.

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Lift your Spirit

Banjo Earth: China – Chapter 28 – “Love in Your Dream” (blog)

Beijing/Shanghai –

It seems like just a couple of hours ago that we were partying with the French folks at the pool bar. And in actuality, it was. It’s an early rise this morning to get ourselves together, and to make it to the train station on time. We’ve got a bullet train reserved for our trip to Beijing to Shanghai, and it leaves at 11:20 am. That seems like a pretty reasonable time to make it, but when you factor in packing, cleaning the place a bit, coffee/breakfast, walking to the subway, riding the subway to the train station, figuring out where to get our tickets, going through security, going through security again, then finding the right train car, we make it with just minutes to spare. Everything in China, even getting on the train, is an adventure. And that is just the way I like it.

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The train is leaving the station

I’m excited to ride the bullet train. The last time I made this trip 14 years ago in took about 12 hours of pure discomfort. This trip will take 5.5 hours and the seats lean back in wonderfully relaxing position. Plus, on a train, you can look out the window and watch China go by in your window. It is completely fascinating to see the backroads and inroads of this country. From nuclear power plants, to farms full of tiny little gardens, to miles and miles of greenhouses, China’s industriousness and innovation is on display as you pass through at a couple hundred miles per hour. The colors span from lush greens to dark grays, the landscape from rocky mountains to jungle-like vegetation. You won’t see any of this way up in the air flying on a plane, which is why bullet train is my new favorite mode of transport. Come on America, let’s make this happen, eh?

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The things you see from the window of a bullet train

After having a chance to make some videos, blogs, and enjoy the country, we stroll into Shanghai around sundown. We have booked another AirBnB house here that is in a great part of town. After finding the place, locating the keys, and figuring out how to use them, we find our way into our new home and relax for a bit. Not long after that however, the excitement, flavors, smells, and lights of Shanghai begin calling. Since I was last here in 2001, Shanghai has changed tremendously. The buildings are taller, more numerous, and more modern. The amount of skyscrapers that display beautiful and innovative architecture is staggering. And the food…..oh my! The plan is just to snack our way around the city for a little while, trying little bites and samples of whatever we can get our hands on.

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Time to hit the streets streets

The Huangpu River, where the old French Bund, and just across the water, the business district, is located, is our first destination. The night skyline of the business district of Shanghai may be the most beautiful in the world, and it’s a good place to start to get an understanding of the kind of environment you are in. So we set out for the three mile or so walk, taking our time and soaking in the city. We find snacks in the form of delicious noodles, chicken, and the tiny little soup dumplings that Shanghai is so famous for. We happen upon the music district, which is full of instrument stores and live clubs. We pass through what feels like mid-town Manhattan, and even pass by Times Square of Shanghai. The lit up store fronts and LED laden buildings look like a mix of New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Shanghai is bustling and busy, making things happen with a sophisticated style and pace. It is very modern and fashionable, and is in stark contrast to the Beijing we just came from. Given their striking differences however, this is still China, and that Chinese pride and style runs deep, and even here, is unmistakable.

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World famous Shanghai soup dumplings

We finally make it down to the river, and the sights of the city just suck us in. The mix of high-rise business buildings and the funky fresh artistic vibe Shanghai has is really cool. The purple space tower jutting from the ground makes you kind of feel like you are on a different planet. Right across the river from these sights is the old French part of town, the Bund. It’s buildings are made up of classical western architecture, and make such an interesting combination. The people are out in force tonight, enjoying themselves and taking hundreds of pictures. The night is beautiful and warm, and a short sleeve shirt is enough to suffice. Weather wise, our trip from Beijing to Shanhai is sort of like having breakfast in New York, then eating dinner in Savannah, GA.

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The Shanghai skyline

We enjoy the night, have a beer on a riverwalk patio, and take it all in. Banjo Earth is nearly at its end, and it has been an incredible journey. The first few days feel like months ago. All the amazing people we’ve met, things we’ve seen, and music we’ve made and heard is unfathomable. It may take a few months to sort this all out. All I know is that it feels great to Be Here Now, and to be doing the things that I know I was put on this planet to do. I looked deep into my heart, found this idea, and began the work. From there, the Universe took over; the love of my friends and family, the support of fans of my spirit and music, and the wonderful talents of the people around me.   I truly believe if there is Love in your dream, than anything is possible.

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Monument to the People’s Heroes

Banjo Earth: China – Chapter 27 – “Caravan” (blog)

Beijing –

Last night was a little rough to get through. The beds were really hard, the bathroom was located two alleys away, and the snoring was ferocious. But it’s nights like these that really help you appreciate staying in a nice hotel with a super soft bed and hot shower. At least, that’s how I try to sell it to the guys. In any case, Ben has a cold he more than likely caught from me, Ryan is tired and out of his element, and I’m doing alright. This is our last day in Beijing before we head South, then out of the country. So there is no time to get down. I think if this is the worst that it gets, then we’ve done pretty good.

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Ryan after a rough night’s sleep in the hutong

Despite our lack of sleep and less than optimal health, we have a really full day of recording sessions and a concert. After waking rather early, we go around the corner to our favorite coffee shop, Rager Pies. There, the cute and funny barista/owner, Emilie, treats us to some delicious coffee and interesting conversation. The espresso is really good and they always treat us great at this place. It’s a one-table café, so try to get there when it’s not busy!

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Our friend Emily brewing something good at Rager Pies

After coffee, I get a message from our fiddling friend Xin Xin. He is on the way over to our hutong house for a recording session. Xin Xin is a great person. He is so funny and expressive, and we always have a good time trying to figure out what each other is saying. He is very generous with his time and talents, and is an incredible musician. He came right into the session, quickly learned the song, and performed it wonderfully. Even though I tried to pay him for his work, he refused. These are the kinds of artists that truly carry the torch. His tradition is deep, and his willingness to explore and collaborate across cultural and musical boundaries is brave and earnest. I feel very blessed to have him as a part of the Banjo Earth: China project.

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Xin Xin making magic happen on the fiddle

After the session, we are all feeling pretty hungry, so we take off for some food. I really want to take Ryan to Mongolian Hot Pot (Huo Guo), and have him experience this incredible meal. There are many different kinds of Hot Pot, and you never really know which kind you are getting, unless you speak excellent Chinese, that is. This particular restaurant, pretty close to our house, happens to be one of the more spicy ones. I have a little trouble ordering, until after about 5 minutes of frustrating confusion, she shows me the little English written on the back of the menu. Thanks!

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Ryan and the spiciest Hot Pot I’ve ever had

We get the food, the pot begins boiling, and the journey begins. Whatever style Hot Pot this is, the soup is the spiciest we’ve had. Halfway through the meal, Ben is crying and sweating from his head, and we’re all periodically choking. Despite the incredible spice, the food is still extremely delicious. Raw lamb meat, beef, mushrooms, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and tofu, boiled in the pot for a minute then dipped in your sesame sauce, is one the best dining experiences on this planet. The first time I left China after living there for six months, I would often have dreams of this dish, and upon returning, this would be my first stop. We finish our beer and try to cool off a bit, but the heat lingers after the meal. This level of spice puts you in a sort dreamy trance state. When we hit the street again after the meal, I feel like I just left an opium den.

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Ben doing his best to beat the Hot Pot heat

On the way back to our place we pass by the ancient and beautiful drum tower, just North of the Forbidden City.  This is the timekeeping center of China past, where, every hour, they would conduct a drum performance on these massive drums that would ring throughout the city, letting folks know the time was moving.  Of course, now, we all have watches and cell phones connected to satellites that keep our time, but the drum performance carries on to this day, bringing the past into the present.  It happens to be really close to the time of the performance as we walk by, so we pay our ticket and head up the nearly vertical staircase to the top of the tower.  At the top is a large, mostly empty room, save for about 12 massive drums and some people gathered to see them played.  Right on time, the drummers come out and begin their ancient ritual.  The heavy sound from the wood and skin, and the rick history that you can sense in every way happening right in front of you, is so emotionally powerful that I start to tear up a bit.  This just hits me in a special way, and helps to form new connections about music, time, and history.  After the short performance, I try to gather myself as we move outside on the balcony and take a look over Beijing.  You can see the Forbidden city just in front, all of the hutongs swerving in and around, then the large buildings start to rise on the outside of city center.  It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and I feel really blessed for this moment in space and time.

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The drum tower performance

After a short nap and a bit of recuperation, we set up the studio for our second session of the day. We have a Pipa player, whose English name is Melinda, coming to the house to lay some tracks on the album. Our friend from yesterday, YuMiao, connected us with Melinda, and I am excited to hear her play the Pipa, one of my favorite instruments. I first saw and heard the Pipa when I was a student here in 2001. I was so struck with the instrument, that I bought one and began taking lessons. It sounds amazing, much like a Chinese version of the banjo. I’m really interested to see how the banjo and pipa can sound together. Before she arrives, I must get some tracks ready for her, so I record a couple of new songs to see which one she like best. I do a version of Sally Goodin’, and old time fiddle tune, and a song called The Forbidden City, which I have composed while in China. She listens to and likes them both, so we record 2 different songs.

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Melinda adding some Pipa to the Banjo Earth album

Melinda is really smooth on her instrument, and is also a really beautiful and warm person. She is thrilled with the feeling of playing on the project, and learning this new kind of music. She is also very interested in the banjo, and the sounds that come from it. Our time together, though very short, is really fun. And I truly hope that we get to spend more time in the future. But, we have to get to our show at Caravan really soon. So, after about an hour of intense Banjo Earth collaboration, we walk her to the corner and part ways into the night.  We grab a quick taxi, and set off for Caravan. This is our second show of the tour, and last show in Beijing, so I’m pretty excited for tonight. We have heard a lot about his place, and its owner Badr. He is from Morocco and the food he serves at the restaurant, 80% Moroccan and 20%Cajun has garnered a lofty reputation in only 6 months since he’s been open. He is also a champion of old time music, country, jazz, and bluegrass, so this is a perfect fit for the Banjo Earth tour. Almost as soon as we arrive, he has drinks and a wonderful dinner prepared for us. Olives and hummus for appetizers, followed by a delicious chicken salad with a succulent dressing, and finished with a tasty roasted chicken and rice dish. The subtle and mild flavors is a welcome rest from the Chinese cuisine we’ve been living on for the past month.

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Caravan..A Moroccan/Cajun restaurant with live music

After that great dinner, we set up the show and get into the set. Although the place is pretty small, there is a great crowd in attendance. There are a lot of people we don’t know here, plus several of our Beijing friends we have made over the short time we have been here. It’s really nice to see these folks show up on our last night here to enjoy the music and see us off. The crowd is raucous and lively, and an impromptu square dance breaks out right in front of us. People are jumping around and dancing and having a really good time.

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Square dance party breaks out at Caravan

Earlier, my brother Ryan had bought an experimental Nitro Coffee from Rager Pies that apparently releases caffeine into your bloodstream 5 times faster than normal coffee. This, combined with the extreme level of spiciness in the hot pot meal, left him lying on the floor in the band room for the first 30 minutes of the show. Luckily, our good friend and excellent fiddler, Famous Kirk Kenney was in attendance, and filled in for Ryan. About halfway through the set, Ryan got to feeling better and made it back to the stage. We have a great time playing and the crowd really enjoys and appreciates the music. A few of our friends sit in as guest artists, and the music sounded great. It was a perfect way to spend our last night in this wonderful city.

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Banjo Earth jam at Caravan

We catch a taxi home and drop our stuff, but on the way, see a pool hall that is really happening right around the corner. So, as ones not much to give up on the night, we head back out for one more drink and a game of pool. When we arrive, there is a large group of French musician and a bunch of French ladies. They are all drinking, shooting, pool, and having a great time. French people have a reputation for loving to party, and these folks don’t disappoint. They are a band from Paris, traveling and touring in China. The whole band is there, complete with backup singers, and promotional people. They are quite fun to hang with and talk to. We squeeze the most fun we can out of the evening, and decide to head on home for some rest. It’s about 3am now and the 9am wake up to catch the train to Shanghai is approaching faster and faster. We say our goodbyes and goodnights, and hit the bed hard. This has been one full and memorable Banjo Earth day.

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Morning comes fast on a late night