Throw Down Your Heart

Throw Down Your Heart Release Date: March 13, 2009

The movie “Throw Down Your Heart” follows American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck on his journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots of the banjo and record an album. Béla’s boundary-breaking musical adventure takes him to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, and provides a glimpse of the beauty and complexity of Africa.

“Throw Down Your Heart” presents a portrait of Africa that is very different from what is often seen in the media today. Béla’s 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 Béla Fleck’s passion for the banjo runs deep. In his trailblazing 30-year career, Béla has brought the instrument into jazz, pop, classical, and world music settings, and won eight Grammys along the way (not to mention the 25 nominations, in more distinct categories than anyone else, ever).

Ever since he started playing music, Béla 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. Béla wanted to go to Africa to trace the roots of the banjo, the instrument that defines who he is.

But Béla’s journey was also motivated by a deep love of African music. Béla was inspired by music from all across the continent, and very often he could hear a place for his banjo. When Béla had a year off from his band, Béla 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” tracks Béla’s tuneful collaborations with a wide variety 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 Béla travels across Africa, Béla uses his banjo to transcend 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.

Genres: DocumentaryFamilyMusic
Directed By: Sascha Paladino
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Argo.
MPAA Rating Unrated