A banjo for bluegrass in Uzbekistan

Elation Center for the Arts has launched a fund-raising drive to send a banjo to a gifted young musician in Uzbekistan.

Not exactly known as being a venue for American banjo music, Uzbekistan has one banjo player in the entire country.

Her name is Janna Kim.

Kim, a talented 24-year-old professional singer, taught herself how to play banjo over the Internet using a makeshift instrument. Now she brings the happy sounds of American bluegrass to a part of the world that, for the most part, has never heard this music. She plans on continuing to develop her expertise on the banjo and hopes to someday perform her music internationally.

To assist this brilliant young artist with achieving her creative goals, Elation Center for the Arts partnered with Nechville Musical Products, a leading banjo manufacturer in Bloomington, Minn. Tom Nechville, whose world-class banjos are highly revered by musicians throughout the world, provided a matching opportunity to obtain one of his instruments in support of the philanthropic endeavor. “What I like about the bluegrass, old-time and acoustic music community,” said Nechville, “is that it is international. That fact gives us common ground upon which we can form the foundation of friendship.”

Jack Clift, an American music producer, generously offered to transport the instrument and present it to Kim on his next visit to Uzbekistan. Clift owns a recording company called Effigy Records. He is the founder of a music ensemble in Uzbekistan that merges American roots music with traditional music of Central Asia. Clift’s co-producer is John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Other sponsors of the project include Pat Toomay, author and former pro football player; Mimi Roberts, director of Media Projects with the New Mexico Dept of Cultural Affairs; and BanjoCrazy.com.

Contributions have been received from banjoists in the U.S., Russia, Japan, France and England who became acquainted with Kim and her music through the Banjo Hangout, an online forum for banjo enthusiasts. “For many folks in other parts of the world, the sound of the banjo is the sound of freedom,” remarked one contributor.

ECA is encouraging others to join a coalition of philanthropists in promoting the “sound of freedom,” by sending a banjo to Janna Kim in Uzbekistan. Designated donations can be made online at elationarts.org or by calling 731-3117.

Copies of the CD, “Pale Imperfect Diamond” — a melding of American roots and Central Asian music — have been donated by Effigy Records in support of the fund and can be purchased online through elationarts.org or by calling 731-3117.

Multi-instrumentalists Paul and Carla Roberts are supporting the project through house concerts in Colorado and New Mexico. Contact them through above Web site and phone number if you would like to inquire about sponsoring such an event.

Elation Center for the Arts is 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Pagosa Springs.


Photo courtesy Paul Roberts
Janna Kim, a talented 24-year-old professional singer in Uzbekistan, taught herself how to play banjo over the Internet using a makeshift instrument. Now, a coalition of musicians and supporters in the U.S. are working to provide Kim with a banjo. Paul and Carla Roberts, of Pagosa’s Elation Center for the Arts, are supporting the project through house concerts in Colorado and New Mexico.