Banjo musician Andy Eversole took his banjo and traveled from his home in Greensboro to China, where he planned to collaborate with traditional Chinese musicians and work on blending both styles of music in perfect harmony.
In the process, he did more than create a new multi-cultural sound. He shared the banjo with many who were unfamiliar with the instrument’s unique brand of music, and made lasting connections with people he met on the streets of Beijing. And he captured it all in his documentary film “Banjo Earth: China.”
I’m hoping people recognize through this music and the film that we’re all much more alike than we are different.
Banjo music struck a chord with Eversole while he was taking a stroll through Boone one day. “I saw this guy on the street playing banjo with one of those floppy hats, just sitting there on the street playing banjo, and I remember hearing that ring of notes come out and immediately then I was fascinated by the sound.”
To Eversole, banjo music has the ability to “bring you home” in a sense, especially if you’re from around North Carolina. “Also, it just makes you feel good,” he said.
China has this thing I’ll call joyful sorrow in their music: there’s a lot of pain in it, but it’s happy pain …
“Banjo Earth: China,” a broader undertaking for Eversole beyond the scope of just an album, began with some reflection. “I looked at my different strengths and passions and where they intersected,” he said. Playing the banjo was a given, and travel was another interest of Eversole’s—so he wanted to combine the two. “The thing would be to bring a meaningful project that brings people together,” he said.
Chinese folk music appealed to Eversole. “China has this thing I’ll call joyful sorrow in their music,” he said. “There’s a lot of pain in it, but it’s happy pain, sort of like the blues tradition here. And I found that fascinating and I wanted to be a part of it and share the banjo with them and learn their music as well.”
Eversole wanted to document his journey on camera; not just the music, but his interaction with the people of China as well.
“The plan when I got to China was to just start connecting with people, so I just took the banjo and just started walking around Beijing,” Eversole said. “I’d sit on the street corners and play. A lot of people had never seen the banjo before.
“People would come up, take pictures, listen and go on about their business. It was a really cool way to meet people and to just share existence with each other.”
He also found the cultural, musical collaboration he was hoping for.
“I found some musicians and played with them and they introduced me to other musicians. And it was this really organic thing that spread out from there.”
Eversole shares his experiences in his documentary “Banjo Earth: China,” and his inspired musical collaboration in his album of the same name.
“The power of connecting with these people is a very deep feeling,” Eversole said. “I’m hoping people recognize through this music and the film that we’re all much more alike than we are different.”
Learn more about Andy Eversole and the Banjo Earth project on his website, andreweversole.com.