John Low grew up in Kenya, has worked in Guinea, Somalia and Sudan and has been playing African guitar styles for over twenty years. He did some research in East and Central Africa and met most of the important musicians. His lesson shows a resume of what he learned. He picked out some tunes to learn by these artists, of which some were never recorded before.
The golden age of African fingerpicking guitar was in the 1950s and 1960s. The great players and recording artists of that time included Jean Bosco Mwenda and Losta Abelo from Zaire and George Mukabi from Kenya.
Guitarists from other parts of the world have rarely if ever had a chance to learn their songs and playing techniques. On this DVD their arrangements are taught by John Low, who has lived, worked and studied with African musicians, including those mentioned above. There are some interesting links with American guitar styles but there are just as many differences, including rhythms borrowed from traditional African music and catchy up-beat patterns.
African fingerstyle guitar is usually accompanied by rhythms played on a bottle. John Low is accompanied on this DVD by Frans Maathuis and Keith Jackman on bottles.
85 minutes - Level 2 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: John Low has made a career out of learning the vanishing fingerpicking guitar styles of Central Africa, and he teaches nine pieces by five of the greatest innovators from Zaire, Kenya and Tanzania. Low is an excellent teacher, and the video contains material that will be accessible to relative neophytes along with techniques that will benefit more advanced guitarists.
The unusual picking patterns and rhythms of the material Low teaches could conceivably be adapted to a variety of different styles as well. Low is accompanied on many of the selections by vocalist/Nehi bottle player Ffranz Maathusi and Rolling Rock bottle player Keith Jackman, who provide authentic backing for Low's pieces. Although all three musicians have absorbed their respective styles well, and render the material with passion and respect, it remains a bit unsettling to see three European Caucasians teaching these African styles.
Those looking for the original versions might want to consult another video, African Guitar (Vestapol 13017dvd), which consists of field recordings of many of the artists whose material is taught here. - Dirty Linen