The banjo is a four or five stringed instrument with a piece of plastic or animal skin stretched over a circular frame. Simpler forms of the instrument were fashioned by enslaved Africans in Colonial America, adapted from several African instruments of the same basic design.
The banjo is usually associated with country, folk, Irish traditional music and bluegrass music. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African traditional music, before becoming popular in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. In fact, blacks influenced early development of the music that became country and bluegrass, through the introduction of the banjo and through the innovation of musical techniques for both the banjo and fiddle. The banjo, with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music.
A number of hybrid instruments exist, crossing the banjo with other stringed instruments. Most of these use the body of a banjo, often with a resonator, and the neck of the other instrument. Examples include the banjo mandolin, the Banjolin, bandolin, and the banjo ukulele or banjolele, most famously played by the English comedian George Formby junior. These were especially popular in the early decades of the twentieth century, and were probably a result of a desire either to allow players of other instruments to jump on the banjo bandwagon at the height of its popularity, or to get the natural amplification benefits of the banjo resonator in an age before electric amplification.
Instruments using the five-string banjo neck on a wooden body (for example, that of a bouzouki or resonator guitar) have also been made, such as the banjola. A 20th-Century Turkish instrument very similar to the banjo is called cümbüs.