SHLOMO PESTCOE  שלמה פּסטקאָ

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* Banjo Roots: Banjo Beginnings *

* Banjo Roots: West Africa *

* The Ekonting: A Link to the Banjo's West African Heritage *

Please note: This is not a commercial site. I do not sell or appraise musical instruments. Please do not contact me to request that I identify and provide background information on a specific instrument in your possession and/or evaluate its worth. That's a job for an accredited professional appraiser, which I'm not. That said, I'll be glad to answer questions and discuss any subject I present here, so long as that one proviso is respected.  



SHLOMO PESTCOE has been a fixture of New York City's old-time country and traditional music scenes since the early 1980s. He's a versatile performer and a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist who is a master of various different musical instruments and regional/ethnic vernacular music traditions.  A prize-winning fiddler, Shlomo leads Sufferin' Succotash, a renowned local string band which performs old-time country, early blues and old-style Louisiana Cajun/Black Creole music from the 1920s, '30s and beyond.

Since 1990, Shlomo has been a favorite "kids-n-family" music performer in the Big Apple. He's a founding member of Gillygaloo, a leading NYC acoustic ensemble performing grownup-friendly folk roots music for kids of all ages and abilities. 

 A consummate "edu-tainer," Shlomo's performances combine humor, fun and an easy-going stage presence with first-rate professional musicianship and a ready knowledge of a rich variety of folk and popular musical traditions.

In addition to performing, Shlomo is also committed to promoting our world's rich musical heritage through his teaching, consulting, and writing. Towards this end, he researches and explores organology-- the history and science of musical instruments-- as well as ethnic/regional folk/vernacular musical instruments and traditions from around the globe. 

In recent years, Shlomo has been working with other researchers the world over delving into the banjo's roots in West Africa. He collaborates in this endeavor with Swedish banjo historian Ulf Jägfors and Daniel Laemouahuma Jatta, a master of the Jola akonting folk lute from Gambia, among others. At the 8th Annual Banjo Collectors Gathering (12/08-12/11/05)-- the foremost international conference of antique banjo collectors as well as many of the leading historians, scholars and makers of the earliest forms of the instrument -- Ulf Jägfors, Daniel Laemouahuma Jatta, and Shlomo shared the podium to present the findings of their research. The 8th Annual Banjo Collectors Gathering was also the scene of the founding of The Friends of The Akonting Center (FOAC), the North American support group for The Akonting Center for Senegambian Folk Music in Mandinary, Gambia. Shlomo is the Coordinator of the FOAC.



Shlomo's repertoire comes mostly from primary sources, such as 78 rpm commercial recordings from the early 20th century and field recordings of tradition bearers, as well as archival and historic printed collections. Likewise, his comprehensive background information is drawn from current scholarship and literature in the fields of ethnomusicology, music and cultural history, folklore, organology, historic musical iconography and more.

The original songs and tunes which come from Shlomo's pen reflect his musical influences and roots. You'll hear it all in his work-- everything from down-home blues and old-time country to West Indian calypso and mento.

Shlomo is committed to perpetuating the diverse traditional melodies and styles in his song bag as "living art." He presents and performs them in a manner that is faithful to the original sources, yet which also expresses the creative vitality and vibrancy-- as well as joyous exuberance and passion-- inherent in these heirloom treasures of our shared musical heritage.



As a teen back in the mid 1970s, Shlomo began his life-long "healthy obsession" with traditional music and musical instruments from around the world. Flipping through the FM dial, he discovered radio shows playing tunes infinitely more interesting and exciting than "Top 40" schlock pop-- old-time country music, bluegrass, early blues, jazz, salsa as well as Jewish, Irish, African, Greek and other ethnic vernacular music forms. Here Shlomo first heard the captivating sound of scratchy old 78's as well as haunting field recordings of folk tradition bearers. Listening to these audio time capsules, Shlomo knew that he had found the kinds of music and musical instruments he would want to study and explore for the rest of his life. 

At the age of 18, Shlomo first got involved in the old-time country and traditional music scenes that were thriving in and around the Big Apple. Jam sessions, pickin' parties, concerts, festivals, and Fiddlers' Conventions were the classrooms in which he learned his craft. Shlomo honed his skills by "busking" (playing for tips) on NYC's streets, playing for local square dances and Appalachian clog/flat foot dance classes, and competing in fiddle and string band contests, both locally and down South. Shortly thereafter, he began offering "living history" interpretative presentations on Early American vernacular music and musical instruments at historic sites and museums throughout New York and New Jersey, such as Historic Richmondtown (Staten Island, NY), Morristown National Historical Park (NJ) and the South Street Seaport Museum (NYC). 



            "BEST KID'S GUITARIST: Our favorite feature of the [Children's] Museum [of the Arts]
              is Shlomo, a sort of hippie-ish Pied Piper, who comes out every hour or so to play
              guitar, ukulele, violin, [washtub] bass, anything with strings, and lets the kids take a
              turn on the assembled instruments [from his private collection]. You see the wide eyes,
              the competition to be first on line, the gentle rapport between Shlomo and the youngsters,
              and you can sit back, relishing not only the musical education of your progeny, but a
              well earned break as well."
                                    -- Best of Manhattan, NYPress (1995)

Since 1990, Shlomo has been delighting kids in and around the Big Apple with his "edu-taining" interactive performances and hands-on activities presenting different kinds of music and musical instruments. As "The Music Man," he was the first musician-in-residence at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (NYC) and the Children's Museum of the Arts (SoHo, NYC). Shlomo was also a visiting artist/educator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Education Department and the Midori Foundation's Midori & Friends In-School Program. In 1998, he was a principal consultant in the creation of Music Mix, the Brooklyn Children's Museum's current permanent music exhibit. In a reprise of that role, Shlomo is once again consulting for the Brooklyn Children's Museum on world music traditions and musical instruments for the projected World Brooklyn/Global Beats exhibit, scheduled to open in the Spring of 2008.

Shlomo was a founding member and the lead instrumentalist for the Imagination Workshop Band, a seminal group in the Big Apple kids/family music scene, which was active between 1996 and 2003. He wrote many of the IWB's songs, including the hit title cut of their first album, Subway Train (1997). Shlomo also created such favorites of "The Playground Set" as Bye, Bye and The Bayou Song (La La Fais Do Do) on Subway Train, and Bagels and Pizza For Me on the IWB's second album, It's a Kid's Life (2000) to name but a few.

In 2001, Shlomo joined with Suzi Shelton, Bob Jones and Michael Gorin to form Gillygaloo, a Brooklyn-based acoustic ensemble that performs "grownup-friendly folk roots music for kids." His knack for writing fun, witty kids' songs is showcased on Gillygaloo's debut album, Little Green Thing (the title number being another "Shlomo" original).



In addition to Sufferin' Succotash and Gillygaloo Shlomo also performs a variety of different types of music with other local musicians-- everything from Jewish Klezmer and Mexican Norteño/Tejano dance music to fiddle and button accordion tunes from the British Isles, French Canada, Scandinavia and beyond. Most notably, in recent years, he has played with Kate and Lou Giampetruzzi, "The First Couple of the Big Apple Folk Scene" in The Kate & Lou Band.

Shlomo currently teaches guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and ukulele as a member of the teaching staff of The Musicians General Store Music School in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, (718) 596-4962. He has also been the Curator/Photo Archivist of The Musical Eye, the Musurgia collection of antique photographic images of musicians and their instruments from around the world.

Drawing on his years of research and exploration of the incredible variety of ethnic/regional folk and vernacular music traditions found the world over, as well as the history and organology of musical instruments, Shlomo has served as a consultant on many different projects. Examples range from programming appropriate music and preparing background materials on various traditions for special exhibitions at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) and the Children's Museum of the Arts (CMA) to consulting on the banjo's roots in Africa and the African Diaspora for National Public Radio
Shlomo has also served as the coordinator for the New York City Old-Time Musicians & Callers Co-operative (1983-85) as well as for several major NYC events, such as:

  • The Big Apple Old-Time Country Fiddlers Convention & String Band Contest (1984)

  • The NYC Old-Time String Band Festival (1985)

  • The Breakin' Up Winter Festival of Traditional Music & Dance (1985-87)

  • The Learning Alliance Spring Music Festival (1988), which included Boxes & Bows--The NYC Accordion & Fiddle Competition and Acting Up in Concert-- A Benefit for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)

  • The Children's Museum of Manhattan/ CITY LORE Festival of Neighborhood Folk Arts (1993), which included Pinkster at CMOM-- A Celebration of New York's African American, Native American & Dutch Roots.   


Illustration Credits:

  • Shlomo playing his 1931 Kay Kraft "Style B" guitar, purchased from Musurgia. Brooklyn, NY, 2006. (W. Weinstein)

  • Portrait of a budding fiddler... with his dad's violin. Trenton, NJ, c. 1962.  (Charles Pestcoe)

  • Shlomo plunking on the ol' banjo. Kibbutz Netzer Sereni, Israel, 1978.

  • A young museum visitor accompanying Shlomo's fiddle playing in the traditional fashion, by beating "fiddle sticks" on the strings of his fiddle to keep the rhythm. Children's Museum of Manhattan, NYC, c.1991.  (Unknown)

  • Shlomo performing at the 7th Heaven Street Festival. Brooklyn, NY, 2006. (W. Weinstein)

* Home * Bio * Shlomo Sez * Shlomo on MySpace * Sufferin' Succotash * Gillygaloo *    

* Yummie * Musical Styles * Instruments * Features * News * Contact * Links *

* Banjo Roots: Banjo Beginnings *

* Banjo Roots: West Africa *

* The Ekonting: A Link to the Banjo's West African Heritage *

Please send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2005 Shlomo Pestcoe. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 02/01/09