African-American Eight-Piece Band
4 1/8” x 2 1/4” Photograph, circa 1930, Collection of Zachary Sigall
Here’s an eight-man ensemble with an interesting lineup of instruments that includes flute (or piccolo), ukulele, banjo, two guitars, güiro, a makeshift bass (possibly a length of automotive exhaust pipe), and triangle. The güiro is an ancient percussive instrument common throughout the Caribbean, an open-ended hollow gourd with a row of notches cut in one side, played by rubbing a wooden stick across the grooves.
The identity and location of this group is unknown, although the clothing suggests a date around 1930. The güiro might indicate a Caribbean setting, but the presence of a five-string banjo makes the United States a more likely location for this photograph. New Orleans would not be a bad guess. The plant growing behind the musicians appears to be a wax myrtle, which is found across the American South and throughout the tropics.