There are a number of theories about the origins of the word banjo. Some folks believe it’s derived from the Kimbundu language. Kimbundu, also known as North Mbundu, is a language spoken largely in the south-central region of Africa. In Kimbundu the banjo, in its older incarnations, may have been called “mbanza.” Other people believe it derives from the Portuguese word “bandore.”
Other theories include such Americanized words as “banjar,” “banjil” and “banza.” Regardless of where they got their name, however, banjos have a remarkably distinct sound. With an unmistakable musical character these unique instruments represent a rich cultural history, both in the United States and around the world. From Africa, to Europe and even Asia and the Middle East, banjos are a truly global instrument with derivations existing in almost every known human culture. Not many modern instruments can say that.