by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz
Back in Nashville again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover a heart for Africa outside the non-governmental organizations of Washington, D.C. However, I did not expect to find it where I did. I’ve kept tabs on local musician, Bela Fleck, the acclaimed banjo player extraordinaire, ever since my dad had the honor of hosting Fleck for a practice session at our house. Naturally, I was thrilled when my father told me about Fleck's latest project, the musical documentary, Throw Down Your Heart, directed by Sascha Paladino. The idea for the film was birthed from Fleck’s desire to trace the history of his beloved banjo back to it roots. Soon, however, the project developed into something even greater than he could have expected. During his five-week long trek through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia, and Mali, he forged relationships and collaborated with African musicians to create forty tracks of music (eighteen of which are on the record for the movie).
Fleck made the trip in 2005, but the film has taken three years to edit and is currently making its run through small film festivals around the country. In an interview with Nashville radio station Lightning 100 (WRLT-FM), Fleck mentioned that he’s now working to get the documentary more widely distributed on the big screen and on television. Regardless, he predicts the DVD release for sometime in October of this year.
Even more important than the history of the banjo, Throw Down Your Heart drives at a theme that deserves notice: we (as in the Western World) need a perspective change on how we view Africa as a whole. Yes, there is violence, disease, and poverty there. But, if we singularly focus on these negative aspects, we run the risk of devaluing the worth of a remarkably rich continent. For a wealth of great music and vivid people and places, check your local indie theater for Throw Down Your Heart.
(The photo of Bela Fleck playing in Africa is © copyright Argot Pictures which allows its use with the proper credits. To see a schedule of screenings for the film, please go here. To see a trailer for Throw Down Your Heart, please check below.)
Throw Down Your Heart
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by Emily Norton