Robbie Basho PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 July 2012 12:26

Robbie BashoRobbie Basho

Born: August 31, 1940

Died: February 28, 1986

Age: 45

Cause of death: Visiting chiropractor who used a whiplash technique which caused blood vessels in his neck to rupture leading to a fatal stroke.

Notable because: Pioneering innovative steel string guitar player. who found his calling when he heard Ravi Shankar play sitar. Quite possibly died a virgin such was his ethereal commitment.

Robbie Basho was an American composer, guitarist and pianist, and a proponent of the acoustic steel string guitar in America.

Basho was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and was orphaned as an infant. Adopted by the Robinson family, Daniel Robinson, Jr. attended Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and went on to study at University of Maryland College Park. Although he played the euphonium in the high school band and sang in middle school and high school ensembles, his interest in acoustic guitar grew during his college years, as a direct result of his friendships with fellow students John Fahey, Ed Denson, and Max Ochs. In 1959, Basho purchased his first guitar and immersed himself in Asian art and culture. It was around this time that he changed his name to Basho, in honor of the Japanese Poet, Matsuo Basho.Robbie Basho 1972

Basho's vision was to see the steel string as a concert instrument and to create a Raga system for America. During a radio interview in 1974, promoting his album Zarthus, Basho discussed his music in detail. He described how he had gone through a number of "periods" related to philosophy and music, including Japanese, Hindu, and Native American. Zarthus represented the culmination of his "Persian period". Basho asserted his wish, along with John Fahey and Leo Kottke, to raise the steel-string guitar to the level of a concert instrument. He acknowledged that the nylon-string guitar was suitable for "love songs", but its steel counterpart could communicate "fire".

Robbie Basho/photo by Jeffrey DooleyBasho credited his interest in Indian music to hearing Ravi Shankar, whom he first encountered in 1962. Basho died unexpectedly at the age of 45 due to a freak accident during a visit to his chiropractor, where an "intentional whiplash" experiment caused blood vessels in his neck to rupture, leading to a fatal stroke.

Robbie Basho's dexterous, finger-picked guitar technique was influenced heavily by Sarod playing, and the studies he undertook with the Indian virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan. Basho employed unusual open tunings, including a number of variants on "Open-C" (CGCGCE) and played a 12-string guitar, in order to recreate the drone that is a notable feature of his beloved Indian Classical Music. Basho's guitar melodies were often created using Eastern modes and scales, but his work contains a broad range of noticeable influences, from European Classical Music to Blues (in his earlier period) and Ballad styles of America.




I think there is still a lot of influence from Basho, frankly. His very linear way of playing guitar which treats it more like a sarod—the influence of Ali Akbar Khan for the most part—working in an open C. So much of what I learned was inspiration from Robbie Basho. More than any other player, he’s the one that I studied. It’s true that my approach to how chords are played is more classical than Basho’s. He was content to stay in a really raga-esque place in terms of picking. As my music evolved, I found I was doing less in terms of playing melodies exclusively with the thumb on the third, fourth and fifth string as Basho did in imitating the sarod. I was using chordal stuff more, but the movement up and down the neck is still very much a product of Basho.

Robbie Basho was an angel. I don’t believe he was terrestrial. I would watch him play and be transported in a way I’ve never been transported before. I’d see him have conversations with people who I did not see in the room. I truly believe that his reality was more accurate than mine. He was seeing a spirit that I was not. I think he may have died a virgin. Robbie didn't have a driver’s license. He was not of this world and was not equipped to be part of this world. I’m not surprised he left this world early. It must have been very tiring for him to try to be in it, but his influence on me is so vast and seminal that I can’t possibly overemphasize it. I think people should go back and listen to his music. There’s some powerful, powerful stuff. Though his voice was odd, it was so powerful. I never really studied with Robbie. I wanted to but I was just too undisciplined to do it and at some point Robbie, exasperated, said to me "Oh, so you need the short lesson." I said "I guess so," and he said "Don’t be afraid to feel anything" and "Sing every melody out loud. If all you’re doing is guitar riffs, there won’t be enough there." Very often a guitarist thinks he’s playing a melody when all he’s doing is a chordal progression with a picking pattern. Unless you can sing the melody as an independent thing and have it work as a melody just note by note by note, you haven’t really written a melody. It’s one of the greatest exercises to engage in when writing. It was a tremendous tool that he gave me. He lived on a spiritual plane that was very real and he made beautiful, beautiful music that people would be well served to listen to today. Doing records with this man who I revered was a big deal for me.


He had a big effect on me. He had an old 12-string guitar and used to wear cowboy outfits and carry around Japanese movie review books. He sang a lot more a traditional mode back then, and I always loved his voice -- it was really good, and spooky . I'd keep trying to talk to him, and one night at a place called the Unicorn I was following him and I said, "Gee, I'm really kind of nervous, because I've been listening to you so much, I'm afraid I'm going to sound a lot like you." And he said "Aw, that's all right, we all go through somebody sooner or later

Robbie Basho "Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12" Plus mp3 download Grass-Tops Recording 2014

Manufacturer: Grass-Tops Recording
Offers - Buy New From: $14.46 Used From: $6.98
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Editorial Review: This is a CD reissue of a 1979 record by legendary guitarist, Robbie Basho. 'Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12' was originally released under the Windham Hill Records label and has been reissued for the first time on CD by Grass-Tops Recording (2014). ----- 1. The Grail and the Lotus 06:34 2. Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis 07:00 3. Pasha II 06:32 4. A Study for Steel String 02:58 5. Ackerman Special 01:14 6. Après Midi American 01:54 7. Variations On Grieg 05:01 8. Scottish Rites 04:36 9. Pavan India 07:10 10. Variations On Ezumi 04:02 11. Variations On Clair De Lune 03:36


Rainbow Thunder - Songs of the American West plus digital download Grass-Tops Recording 2015

Manufacturer: Grass-Tops Recording
Offers - Buy New From: $14.97 Used From: $6.98
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Editorial Review: "Rainbow Thunder is a collection of songs expressing the feelings and textures of the West in its Prime, and of the Native American Peoples who lived there. I hope it does them some small degree of justice - they who looked so hard into Nature" - Robbie Basho --- CD reissue comes with original album notes and reissue liner notes from Robbie's friend / former Iowa concert promoter - housed in a beautiful 6 panel digipak design. ----- 1. Redwood Ramble 02:39 2. Crashing Thunder 05:19 3. Moving Up A'Ways 06:02 4. Legend Of Mount Tamalpais 05:26 5. Rainbow Thunder 06:41 6. The Pathfinder 03:28 7. The White Buffalo 04:19 8. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee 03:19 9. Home Again 03:53 10. The Long Lullaby 05:31 11. Black Hills Soliloquy 03:40


Visions Of The Country

Manufacturer: Grass-Tops Recording
Offers - Buy New From: $44.00 Used From: $12.99
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Editorial Review: This is a CD reissue of a 1978 record by legendary guitarist, Robbie Basho. 'Visions of the Country' was originally released under the Windham Hill Records label and has been reissued for the first time on CD by Grass-Tops Recording (2013). ----- 1. Green River Suite 07:41 2. Rodeo 02:30 3. Rocky Mountain Raga 07:39 4. Variations on Easter 03:57 5. Blue Crystal Fire 04:47 6. Orphan's Lament 03:46 7. Leaf in the Wind 04:38 8. Night Way 06:11 9. Elk Dreamer's Lament 04:17 10. Call on the Wind 03:04



Manufacturer: Imports
Offers - Buy New From: $11.98 Used From: $14.40
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Editorial Review: Digitally remastered edition of this 1974 album from the American guitarist. ZARTHUS was the second of Robbie's two albums for Vanguard, Continuing with his fascination with Eastern music and philosophy, ZARTHUS develops the themes from 1972's THE VOICE OF THE EAGLE. The album is dedicated to, and the cover features the spiritual leader Meher Baba. Another vocal album, the singing is less full-on than on THE VOICE OF THE EAGLE and several tracks also feature Basho on piano, something he is surprisingly adept at, seeing how little it is used in his work. The fold-out poster-style booklet includes a large facsimile of the original sleeve.



Manufacturer: Takoma
Offers - Buy New From: $5.99 Used From: $5.99
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Last Updated on Sunday, 15 July 2012 12:36

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