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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

At Robbie Basho & Steffen Junghans' shrine

Last week I was in Berlin... always like being at home, such a pleasure walking the alleys and meeting some friends.

The second day, it was early morning, I remembered something worthwhile was in Berlin... I realised Steffen Junghans was living only few kilometres from my place... and he recently got the mighty, old, sought after, battered Mexican Robbie's 12 strings guitar, after she was in storage at some Sufi Reoriented warehouse in San Francisco for decades after Basho's passing away.

We corresponded sometimes on everything Basho, being both obsessed by the great, late Robbie Basho, the one of a kind guitarist/musician whose broad interests spanned between Sufi, Indian, Native America.

Steffen's reply to my email arrived promptly and... in the afternoon I was on my way to Steffen's.

Some S-bahn, then a tram, then a short walk... and voilà.

Steffen is an artist, a painter and a musician: he toured worldwide and recorded dozens of records... and he manages this goldmine of site.

His playing style is quite unique, very percussive, european, I'd dare, hinting to some Free Music Production's record label, also from Berlin... reminding some early Hans Reichel's efforts.

His improvisations on 6 an 12 strings acoustic guitar are legendary.

Was such a pleasure shaking his hands for the first time!

We chatted for a while in his kitchen loaded of nice plants, then we headed to his studio, stuffed of guitars and paintings.

On the floor, I recognised the most battered guitar case as the one containing the old Basho's relic... but I enjoyed listening to Steffen's playing and trying some of his guitars.

Only when he asked to me if I knew what was in the case, I smiled and opened the case: the Robbie Basho 12 strings was in front of me and shortly after in my hands!

I appreciated the smell of the old inner body, something I always do with acoustic guitars... she smelled like my 1917 Martin 0021... a wood and dust mix, almost leather-like.

The action was high at 12th fret and the 12 strings tension corrugated the ladder-braced spruce top, near the sound hole.

When I played the E low chorus... WOW!

The sound was so pure, the old lady was resonating in my hands, alive.

After the first meeting, we chatted and chatted around the story behind this guitar and we ended with Steffen who showed his Robbie's "Cathedral et fleur de lis" rendition, while I showed my own... he corrected me and my (sometimes) primitive playing using boom&chick technique which both Robbie and Steffen didn't use.

We spent four hours together and only because I had a meeting in the evening I regretfully quitted my host and his house, so loaded of music and art... life at its best.

Thanking Steffen for hosting and sharing his passion...

 The Old Lady with the previous, Spanish bridge, before being converted to pins bridge...

... and for rescuing the Old Lady... a project for future - i.e. maybe a replica and sure a respectful restoring job.

... with deepest, loving thanks to our mentor, Robbie Basho for being.

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