In Alfred Mercier’s 1881 novel L’Habitation Saint-Ybars, ou Maitres et esclaves en Lousiane there is a scene involving a “banza” played by an old African man named Ima. It is, of course, difficult to know whether this is based on direct observation of the instrument or on Mercier’s reading of other texts from Louisiana or the Caribbean. Nevertheless, it represents one of the few mentions of the instrument in the nineteenth century literature.
Pingback: DIGITAL: Banjology | African Diaspora, Ph.D.
Mercier wrote about what he knew and saw. He spoke Creole and wrote a very early study of the language. The old man “Ima” is actually a deformation of Imam, a Muslim holy man. Slaves in Louisiana were from the Senegambia area and were frequently Muslim.