Bob Carlin
Producer, Performer, Teacher & Researcher
Solo Performances
photo Tommy McNabb
“We do not have many banjo players on our show because I don’t particularly care for the banjo. But Bob’s come along and gone back to an older style of playing, and done amazing things withit and he makes us want to listen to this instrument again.”
Garrison Keillor,
A Prarie Home Companion

Currently, Bob Carlin is available for solo shows, including “From Africa to America.” This program combines the history of the banjo with Carlin's own musical journey. West African roots, African-American banjo styles, minstrelsy of the 1840s and 1850s, Southern “old-time” banjo playing and John Hartford's music are all covered in this evening with the banjo. If requested, period instruments and replicas are enlisted in the musical journey by master banjoist Carlin.

Bob also teaches and lectures on a wide variety of banjo-related topics encompassing banjo history and playing skills. He offers two hour "Improve Your Clawhammer Banjo Skills At Any Level" (more info...) and the weekend long "Traveling Banjo Academy" ("TBA"). The TBA presents Bob Carlin in conjunction with other outstanding clawhammer banjoists and teachers for a weekend full of banjo workshops, a Saturday night concert, and opportunities to smooze and jam with other banjo players of all levels. Workshops cover a broad range of topics from basic right-hand techniques, approaches to learning tunes and how to put your own musical personality into tunes, through tunes and techniques of the classic North Carolina players such as Fred Cockerham and Kyle Creed.

With Cheick Hamala Diabaté
photo by Sam Radziviliuk

Fresh sounds and textures immerse the ear in a compeling aura of mystery and unity. Kudos, kudos, kudos!”

Tony Trischka

Over the years, Bob Carlin has studied the African roots of the American banjo. Most recently, Carlin has joined forces with master Malian musician Cheick Hamala Diabaté in performances that bridge the Atlantic musical divide.

Cheick Hamala Diabaté (pronounced shake haMAHla jaBAHtaby) was born in Kita, Mali, and is recognized as one of the top ngoni (a stringed lute that is the ancestor of the American banjo) players living today. The Diabates are a Jali (Griot) family that trace their heritage back over eight hundred years. The Jeli are the historians of West Africa. Along with the playing of music, a Jali is called upon to recount the history of the people via the spoken and sung word. A Griot is anointed by genetics and is trained from birth by his family elders in all aspects of the Griot tradition.

Cheick Hamala quickly became a master of several traditional Jali instruments (he also plays the western guitar), but has focused his skill on the ngoni. From the age of twelve, Cheick Hamala studied at the National Institute of Arts in Bamako,

Mali’s capitol. After completing his studies, he began an international performing career, traveling throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Canada. Among the well-known Malian stars with whom Diabate has appeared include Ami Koita, Kandia Kouyate and Salif Keita. He also recorded for German record labels.

In 1995, Cheick Hamala Diabaté migrated to the United States, where he continued to perform within the Malian community for public and private celebrations. Cheick Hamala has also endeavored to bring his wonderful music to American audiences, appearing at the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at colleges, universities and concerts throughout the country.

Cheick Hamala Diabaté is available as a solo artist, with a traditional Malian Manding music ensemble featuring kora (African harp), balaphone and percussion, with a modern electric group, as well as in conjunction with American banjoists Bob Carlin and Joe Ayers.


2401 W. Center Street Ext. • Lexington, NC 27295
(336) 248-6202 • e-mail