With just six strings, a fretboard and a sound chamber, the guitar is living proof that versatility comes with simplicity. With its wide range of tones, you can play melody, rhythm, or both at the same time and have the ability to bend a note, hammer on, pull off, slide to and from a note, the list goes on... Add in the fact that it can be carried on your back, and it’s no surprise that the guitar has found its way into musical styles far and wide from Congolese soukous to the Indian classical tradition, giving it unrivalled cross-cultural popularity in the instrument kingdom.
The guitar is an instrument which allows you to bend the rules, and this collection serves up far flung gems from kindred creative spirits who have harnessed its expressive potential to suit their musical styles, be it tango, maskandaor desert blues. None more so than the great Hindustani slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya, a pioneering inventor of his own “Trinity Of Guitars”, whose artistry on ‘Kirwani One.5+8.Five’ rockets past any constraints of the traditional raga form in a classic cosmic collaboration.
Widely considered as the birth place of the blues, the African continent is a melting pot of musical diversity where the chameleon like qualities of the guitar have come into their own. The late great Shiyani Ngcobo is proof of this with his beautifully sounding homemade guitar fashioned from a five-litre oil can which he plays in the Zulu musical style known as maskanda. Malian guitarist Samba Touré offers another virtuosic instrumental performance on the haunting ‘White Crocodile Blues’, reminiscent of the playing of his illustrious tutor and namesake Ali Farka Touré, with its beautiful blend of traditional Malian music and American blues. For many years West African music has proven to be an irresistible draw to globe-trotting bluesmen such as British guitarist Ramon Goose, who forges an infectious blend of old-school blues and Saharan grooves. ‘Futa’ features fellow guitarist Justin Adams and is a wonderful example of cultural exchange with the traditional ngonitrading licks with the electric guitar. Another plugged-in delight is ‘Infidelité Mado’ performed by Congolese soukous guitar maestro Syran Mbenza. Originally recorded by OK Jazz in 1971, it showcases a thrilling Francoesque sebene, where Syran pays his musical respects to the unrivalled Congolese guitar legend Franco.
Having performed as part of Madonna’s ‘Sticky & Sweet’ tour, the Kolpakov Duo are made up of the legendary Russian guitarist Alexander (Sasha) Kolpakov and his nephew and protégé Vadim Kolpakov. Playing the distinct Russian seven-stringed guitar, the haunting and beautiful ‘Grushen’ka’, illustrates the true art of the Russian gypsy guitar style. Another seamless guitar instrumental duet ‘Hey Hey’ was laid down by English acoustic guitar legends John Renbourn and Wizz Jones who recorded the landmark album ‘Joint Control’ shortly before John’s death in March 2015. Based on the playing of Big Bill Broonzy, their mutual respect and musical understanding shines through this classic blues instrumental. Fellow Englishman Steve Tilston is another guitarist who cut his teeth in the UK folk club circuit and shows his musical sensitivity on ‘Slow Air In Dropped D’, which in his words is ‘predominantly Celtic with a dash of Tex-Mex and a hint of Schubert’. There is no mistaking the strutting tango of Horacio Avilano’s stunning guitar accompaniment on ‘Milonga De Corralon’. Dedicated to its rich history, Avilano’s playing is full of the subtlety and passion associated with the infamous Latin genre.
‘Ska Waltz Train’ is a track which encapsulates the truly global scope of the guitar and isthe culmination of guitar virtuoso Bob Brozman’s musical memories formed over a lifetime of travelling and playing music with others. His years of absorbing influences from diverse cultures is expressed through the establishment of the Bob Brozman Orchestra - a unique concept in which Bob intricately played each instrumental part, building layer upon layer to formulate the tremendous sound of an extensive orchestra.