The banjo is a North American plucked stringed musical instrument. With its membrane soundboard, it is easily distinguished from the guitar. This instrument would be a derivative of the West African ekonting lute brought by the black slaves (or more likely recreated by some of them) and which would have led to the creation of the first gourd-banjos ("banjo in gourd"). The banjo now represents a whole family of instruments.
The origin of the modern instrument dates back to the 1830s and 1840s, when the industrialization and commercialization of an older instrument (17th century) used by African slaves deported to the United States began. The oldest iconographic source is found in a travel account written by Sir Hans Sloane in 1688 and published in London in 1707. The black musicians exploited the rhythmic aspect of the instrument with such success that whites in the southern United States became interested. From the last decade of the 19th century onwards, the banjo became distinctive in the pre-jazz style called "Dixieland", a style that continued until the 1930s. This banjo was once again successful after the Second World War thanks to Americans Pete Seeger (traditional southern style) and Earl Scruggs (bluegrass). Many fast-playing American guitarists, such as Arthur "guitar boogie" Smith, have approached music through the banjo.