about the 'Father of the
American Raga', Poet, Guitarist-Composer, Singer
'I don't try to follow the masters; I try to ask the same questions they asked.'
This archives shouldn't be a stupid data-base. Everything can only be a spot or a scetch -nothing is perfect (or like Buddhism would say:"Nothing is ever finished."). I hope it can grow up step by step to open a window into the lifetime and work of Robbie Basho, poet, father of the American Raga and an earlier champion of open tuning techniques and somebody can find something news, sometimes...or has something news to add (I'm always in search of articles, photographs, tapes, .....for the archives) - please contact Blue Moment Arts to add interesting informations or questions about Robbie Basho's life.
Please credit this archives, when using materials to make this a living source!
The rediscovery of an old lady...
Basho's mexican 12 string guitar
(more here )
"A feature-length documentary on the extraordinary life and visionary music of the American guitarist and singer Robbie Basho."
by Steffen Basho-Junghans
I discovered the name Robbie Basho in early 1986 by a record, called "Best of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar Solos", the "Record Sampler '81" of the German label Pastels. Beside beautiful solo works from William Ackarman, Alex De Grassi, Daniel Hecht and Michael Hedges there were 2 Robbie Basho tracks: "Variations on Ezumi" and "Elk Dreamer's Lament", that blew me away, because I was just on a way not so far from that style. I've never heard that name before. My early years as a guitar picker were surrounded by Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Stefan Grossman and the ragtime scene and of course the German and Europeean picker like John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Werner Lämmerhirt...But in our small East German steelstring guitar cicle I was a little bit exotic, because not so blues or ragtime influenced like most of the other pickers.
Because living in the GDR, East-Germany, behind the wall, it was very hard to find some more informations about Basho. About 6 month later, I got the news from a writer, living near Hamburg, Alexander Schmitz, who had written an enormously book about the history of the acoustic guitar, that Basho had died nearly at that time, when I heard his name and the first 2 samples of his music for the 1st time. Until the wall was open, I lived just with these 2 tracks.
But between 1989 and 1991 I found nearly all Basho records (in "used records" stores). So I discovered the "earlier" and the "later" Basho nearly at the same time. I guess, that's why I never could say: the "earlier" or the "later" Basho is the more interesting one. And, of course, whith so much Robbie Basho music arround my ears, it was unimpossible to go "around" him - I had to go through. At that time, many of my own works sounded more or less like influenced by Basho.
The more music I've heard and the more informations I got about him,it stroke my heart, that, just a few years after his death, he was nearly forgotten. Unlike the typical answer in interviews of several musicians:"...yes, but I made things like this long before...", I felt a deep relation and respect. I thought about, how Robbie Basho came into that idea to take the name Basho and because I also knewed Matsuo Basho's poetry, suddenly there was the idea to adopt that name as respect and honour (like: Yes, he is my main influence) of Robbie Basho.
When I started the recordings for my 1st CD in 1992, a kind of special tribute idea came into my mind. I thought of Ackerman's 1st album "In Search of the Turtle's Navel" with tribute to John Fahey. So my album got the title "In Search of the Eagle's Voice" and I had all these "roots" together. But I had to stop the recording works. I got hard problems with my left hand because of the carpal tunnel syndrome for nearly 2 years.
In Fall 1994 I made a 2 month travel to the USA and Mexico. One of my personal "holy" places to vist was Berkeley. - At that time, nobody was thinking or talking about Robbie Basho.
The former Takoma recording artist, Janet Smith, made a lot of contacts for me in the Bay Area. So I had a very nice afternoon in the house, where Basho lived untill his death, sitting together with his former landlady, Mrs Lutgarda Eckell.
I had dozens of calls around, met people releated to the Basho history and nearly everybody started to answer my questions with an: "Oh my goodness, that's such a long time ago..."
I was sitting in Berkely's great Rose Garden for hours and suddenly I understood, where "The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose" on Takoma's '66 "Contemporary Guitar" sampler came from.
One evening, I came down from the Berkeley Hills, on the horizon the lights of San Francisco, I understood: This was the closest point, I could get with Robbie Basho, because I was hunting a history.
A week o so later I called Janet from L.A. and she told me: Something happened here since You left - suddenly a lot of people are talking about the "old times".
Back home in Berlin, with all those impressions of my travel in mind, I continued the work on my CD and in May 1995 "In Search of the Eagle's Voice" was released.
Mysterious: I still missed 1 Basho record: "The Falconer's Arm, Vol I". Just at the day, when I wanted to give my masters a last listen in the studio, a surprise was waiting for me: A guy from Omaha, Nebraska, was exactly 1 year after he had discovered a copy of that album in the same record store again and found another copy and suddenly, like a "sign" I had my last missed Robbie Basho album in my hands.
In my live shows I played few Robbie Basho pieces since the early '90s...(and still do...)
In '95 a friend and fellow guitarist, Glenn Jones, forwarded me a request from Fantasy Inc, now owner of Takoma, if I would be interested to write some notes for a Basho reissue album; "Guitar Soli".
In 2000 I started creating this Robbie Basho Archives.
That's the story...
Later I found comments in the internet like: there's a dude in Germany, who thinks to be the reincarnation of Robbie Basho....
That's not the truth; I sometimes just mentioned some points of that story.
There are still many questions: Where is his 6 string guitar, notes, unpublished works, tapes...? Does anybody know anything? And please: When You have old handbills, posters, photos - please think of sending an image to the archives. Everything is very welcome. And if somebody could add some notes, stories, infos about interesting websites, related to Robbie Basho's music and life..., please send a message.