Because of Big Noise's efforts, Bela Fleck's
documentary 'Throw Down Your Heart' was placed on the
Official Ballot for the 2010 Grammy Awards by the National
Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for Best Long Form
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'Throw Down Your Heart'
Directed by Sascha Paladino
'Throw Down Your Heart' follows
American banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck on his
journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots
of the banjo and record an album. It's a boundary-breaking
musical adventure that celebrates the beauty and complexity
of Africa ‚ an Africa that is very different from what is
often seen in the media today.
As Ugandan folk musician Haruna
Walusimbi states in the film: 'There is this negative thinking
about Africa. There is nothing good in Africa. They are
beggars, there is HIV/AIDS, they are at war all the time.
But that is just a very small bit of what Africa is.' Belaís
trip provides a glimpse into the incredibly rich and diverse
musical traditions of Africa.
At first glance, it might seem
odd that the banjo is the catalyst for this journey. But
in fact, the banjo is originally an African instrument.
And Bela Fleck's passion for the banjo runs deep. In his
trailblazing 30-year career, Bela has brought the instrument
into jazz, pop, classical, and world music settings, and
won eight Grammys along the way (not to mention the 20 nominations,
in more distinct categories than anyone else, ever).
Ever since he started playing music, Bela heard
stories about where the banjo came from. To many, the banjo
is seen as a uniquely American instrument ‚ and even conjures
images of white Southern stereotypes. But the banjo is actually
a descendant of an African instrument. West Africans have
long played an instrument that looks and sounds much like
the banjo. When slave traders captured West Africans, many
of the slaves brought that instrument, and the knowledge
of how to make it, to the United States. On plantations
in the American South, slaves were not allowed to play drums,
but they were allowed to play the banjo. Soon, whites started
copying it, and the banjo evolved into the instrument we
know today ‚ and became a part of American culture. BÈla
wanted to go to Africa to trace the roots of the banjo,
the instrument that defines who he is.
But Bela's journey was also
motivated by a deep love of African music. Bela was inspired
by music from all across the continent, and very often he
could hear a place for his banjo. When Bela had a year off
from his band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, he realized
it was the perfect opportunity to follow his dream ‚ travel
to Africa to collaborate with African musicians.
'Throw Down Your Heart' is a
feature documentary that follows Bela's musical adventures
through four African countries: Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia,
and Mali. Along the way, he works with a wide array of musicians
‚ from local villagers who play a twelve-foot xylophone,
to a family that makes and plays the akonting (thought by
many to be the original banjo), to international superstars
such as the Malian diva Oumou Sangare.
As Bela travels across Africa, he forges both musical
and personal connections. Using his banjo, he transcends
barriers of language and culture, finding common ground
with musicians from very different backgrounds and creating
some of the most meaningful music of his career.
"An exhilarating feast of sight and sound"
- LA Times
"You donít need to know the language to be gripped by the force..."
- New York Times
"Vibrant and spontaneous..."
- Film Threat
"A heartfelt personal journey...refreshing"
- Village Voice
"Both the documentary and the disc of Throw Down Your Heart justify
their existence independentlyóand rather beautifully."
- Time Out New York
"Demonstrates that no other language is needed when two people sit down
with their instruments and make them sing."
- San Fransisco Chronicle
"A pure delight"
- Seattle Times
"You'll just have to hear it for yourself."
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