From Uganda to Urbana: banjo player at Canopy Club

World-renowned banjo player and 13-time Grammy Award winner Bela Fleck preformed on Sunday at The Canopy Club. Joining Fleck was a group of Ugandan, Tansanian, Malian, and West African instrumentalists from his documentary “‘Throw Down Your Heart’ The Africa Project Volume 3.”

Fleck, who has been nominated for the most categories in Grammy Award history, said he enjoys working with people from all over the world, even if they do not speak the same language.

“You’ll be surprised how little we have to talk,” Fleck said. “I just love learning from the world’s great musicians. See that man over there playing the finger-piano? He’s Malian and speaks English; he saves us.”

After five months of trekking through Africa in an effort to unearth the roots of the modern-day banjo, Fleck said that it was just a matter of choosing which artists he wanted to work with for his tour. While the pieces are mostly instrumental, some songs, which are spoken mainly in the musicians’ traditional tongues, are accompanied the churning melodies.

Alongside a montage of African string and hand percussion instrumentalists, he blended the rhythms and tones of traditional African tribes with the modern flair of amps and acoustic guitars.

“I’m just sitting here, staring, in awe,” said Vanessa Robinson, employee of Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment that books acts at the venue. “I begged for it (Fleck’s show) for years. It’s pretty cool that they can still play together, especially since a lot of the guys don’t speak English.”

Will Parkin, sophomore in Engineering, said he became a long-time fan after his uncle made him listen to some of Fleck’s older CD’s.

“When I saw his name. I knew I had to see him,” Parkin said. “I’ve seen him twice: once with the Fleckstones, and the other time with The Sparrow Quartet.”