Banjo and case, five string, wood / metal / plastic, made by Roger Buckmaster, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2005
This is the first five string banjo to be acquired into the Powerhouse Museum's collection. It is important as an example of banjo construction in Australia, as there are relatively few local makers working in this area despite the popularity of the instrument in country, bluegrass and jazz music. The decorative inlay, marquetry and engraving is also distinctive and typical of Buckmaster's work. It follows a long tradition of making highly decorated musical instruments which has historically also included banjos. In this case it reflects the maker's interest in Chinese culture using symbols such as Chinese dragons, flowers and a stylised Great Wall of China done in marquetry around the edge of the body. The instrument is one of several banjos that have been made by Buckmaster that have unique themes. Buckmaster has also made various models of banjo which are plainer than his decorative models.
Overall the banjo helps to document the work of an Australian musical instrument maker working during the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first. It contributes to a broader view of the range and diversity of Australian musical instrument making represented in the Museum's collection dating from about 1835 with a cottage piano by Sydney maker John Benham up to the present.
Michael Atherton, Australian Made...Australian Played (University of New South Wales Press, 1990).
Alan Coggins; "Buckmaster, Roger" (biographical entry) in Violin and Bow Makers of Australia, (WriteLight Pty Ltd/Alan Coggins, Blackheath, Australia, 2009, pp.46.)
Chris Johnson; Guitar - The Australian Journey (Barralier Books, Canberra, 2011, p.39 & p.288)
Curator, music & musical instruments
Made by Roger Buckmaster during 2005. The Certificate of Authenticity states the banjo was completed on 28/7/2005. Buckmaster has made violins, guitars and numerous banjos. He has sold banjos to players and collectors in Australia, the USA, Japan, China and Singapore.
Roger Buckmaster, son of Australian artist Ernest Buckmaster, was born in Melbourne in 1944. After a 5 year apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner he worked at Maton Guitars for 7 years. His first musical instrument, a banjo, was made at the age of 18. He later studied with various violin makers both in Australia and England such as William Dolphin and Colin Kerr in Melbourne and Wilfred Saunders in England. He established his own business in Melbourne in 1975.