Fluent in the musical language of his time
Time and history play a large role in the music of Pierre Bensusan.
If world music is music that pays tribute to the spirit of a culture through distinctive rhythms and traditional instruments, then Bensusan may be one of the most diverse contemporary acoustic guitarists of our time. He weaves together the music of many lands and many times in history. He describes each of his pieces as being influenced by "a man from Iraq" or "the Middle Ages," not simply as French or Brazilian. His innovative work represents a world sharing itself and cultures fusing themselves together.
Bensusan will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 1, at The Mobius, 281 Fourth St., Ashland.
The French-Algerian composer and guitarist incorporates elements of Celtic music, American and Middle Eastern folk music, Latin and jazz into his work. He performs on guitars that were built in collaboration with international luthiers and uses DADGAD guitar tuning exclusively. DADGAD, or D modal tuning, gets its name from its method of tuning. Instead of tuning strings from low to high notes, the first, second and sixth strings are tuned down a whole tone.
This style of tuning guitars has been used for centuries by Celtic, Eastern, Irish and other folk musicians. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin used the styling on the song "Kashmir," which was on the band's sixth album, "Physical Graffiti."
Bensusan was born in 1957 in Oran in French Algeria. It was a time when France was decolonizing its empire, and when Bensusan was a small child, his family moved to Paris. Bensusan began studying the piano and later taught himself guitar. He was influenced by his own diverse musical heritage, and he signed his first recording contract at the age of 17. His first album, "Près de Paris," won the Grand Prix du Disque, the premier French award for musical recordings. He received the award in 1976 at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland.
More than a dozen recordings have followed, including two volumes of Celtic fingerstyle and an anthology album. His newest, "Altiplanos," is his 10th solo album. He recorded its collection of original works on a custom guitar created for him by California luthier Kevin Ryan. The new album showcases vocal numbers, improvised pieces and ballads, and there's a story behind each tune.
Bensusan tours internationally to perform concerts and offer guitar workshops. See pierrebensusan.com for more.
William Piburn of Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine says that "Pierre Bensusan is the most creative energy in the world of steel string guitar by far."
Admission to the show at The Mobius is $18 for general seating; $16 for students. See themobius.com or call 488-8894.