Every year or so, Rolling Stone publishes a list attempting to identify key moments in rock history. These lists promise to reveal the “500 Greatest Songs” or “100 Greatest Albums,” yet I’m always disappointed with the narrow and provincial scope of the magazine’s picks. With few exceptions, these lists are typically populated almost exclusively by artists from the British or American scenes.
As globalization and technology broaden our understanding of international culture, I would expect this flood of new information to be reflected in the magazine’s editorial stance. Unfortunately, it’s not. I recently stumbled across Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists” issue and found the magazine continuing the parochial trends of its past. Somehow Rolling Stone’s contributors couldn’t find a single guitarist from the continents of Africa, Asia or South America worthy of inclusion. With that in mind, I decided to create my own list. So without further ado, here are Cultural Manifesto’s Top 12 guitarists of the rock era.
1. Ali Farka Toure: From delicate acoustic finger picking to sinewy electric solos, Toure was a master of West African Malian guitar styles. Toure has become a major influence for the current wave of Malian rockers, while also leaving a significant mark on the American rock landscape. Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and Beck all took notice of the guitar maestro’s bluesy African riffs.
2. Ernest Ranglin: Ranglin’s distinctive “scratching” style provided the prototype for nearly every ska and reggae guitarist that followed. Ranglin was also an accomplished jazz guitarist, which gave an added depth and nuance to his work on early Jamaican classics by artists like the Wailers and Millie Small.
3. Pepeu Gomes (Novos Baianos): Inspired by the fast frevo picking of Salvador, Bahia’s “trio elétrico” tradition, Brazil’s Pepeu Gomes became a six string icon in a country famous for producing guitar greats. Gomes and Novos Baianos melded traditional Brazilian rhythms with heavy rock grooves yielding unforgettable results and a legacy as one of Brazil’s greatest bands.
4. Erkin Koray: Often dubbed the “Turkish Jimi Hendrix,” Koray is known as the father of Turkish rock, adding traditional Turkish folk instrumentation to his skull-crushing acid riffs.
5. Franco (OK Jazz): Nicknamed “the sorcerer of the guitar,” Franco is an undisputed titan of African music. The Congolese musician inspired countless guitarists across the continent through his masterful work in the rumba and soukous styles.
6. Omar Khorshid: Khorshid made his name playing with the greatest legends of Arabic music, including stints in the orchestra’s of Umm Kulthum and Abdul Halim Hafez. But the Egyptian guitar master makes this list for a series of solo recordings produced in Lebanon during the 1970s. Khorshid’s roaring staccato picking recalls the manic Eastern-flavored technique of surf legend Dick Dale.
7. Sérgio Dias (Os Mutantes): Os Mutantes are perhaps the most influential rock band to emerge from Latin America. Much of the credit for that can be directed to guitarist Dias, who unleashed waves of distortion and feedback on an unsuspecting Brazilian populace. Dias was also capable of constructing intricate Beatle-esque patterns employing a variety of innovative homemade effects.
8. Barthélémy Attisso (Orchestra Baobab): Togolese born Attiso is a lawyer by trade, but he’s best known for his sophisticated, sensual, psych-tinged guitar leads in Senegal’s brilliant Orchestra Baobab.
9. Lanny Gordin: Gordin’s wild unrestrained psychedelic guitar helped define the sound of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, particularly his work with singer Gal Costa.
10. Gábor Szabó: Jazz guitarist Szabó looked to the gypsy roots of his Hungarian homeland while drawing influence from Latin, Indian and rock music traditions. His distinct, piercing tone was a significant influence on Carlos Santana.
11. Shin Joong Hyun: Hyun helped put South Korea on the rock and roll map, thanks in no small part to his electrifying psychedelic guitar work.
12. Enrique Delgado (Los Destellos): Widely acknowledged as a master and pioneer of chicha (Peru’s psychedelic guitar-based take on cumbia), Delgado had a knack for crafting irresistible guitar hooks and riffs.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features two tracks from each of the "global guitar masters."
1. Ali Farka Toure - Tamala
2. Orchestra Baobab (Barthélémy Attisso) - Dee Moo Woor
3. Gábor Szabó - Gypsy Jam
4. Omar Khorshid - Ah Ya Zaman
5. Erkin Koray - Inat
6. Os Mutantes (Sérgio Dias) - Bat Macumba
7. Gal Costa (Lanny Gordin) - Com Medo, Com Pedro
8. Golden Grapes (Shin Joong Hyun) - Please Don't Bother Me Anymore
9. Los Destellos (Enrique Delgado) - Constelación
10. Franco & TPOK Jazz - Azda
11. Ernest Ranglin - Ranglin Satta
12. Novos Baianos (Pepeu Gomes) - Um Bilhete pra Didi
13. Erkin Koray - Istemem
14. Omar Khorshid - Sidi Mansour
15. Franco - Minuit Eleki Lezi
16. Orchestra Baobab (Barthélémy Attisso) - Kelen Ati Len
17. Gábor Szabó - Gypsy Queen
18. Los Destellos (Enrique Delgado) - Guajira Sicodélica
19. Os Mutantes (Sérgio Dias) - Minha Menina
20. Novos Baianos (Pepeu Gomes) - Tinindo Trincando
21. Gal Costa (Lanny Gordin) - Vou Recomeçar
22. Shin Joong Hyun - I've Got Nothing to Say
23. Ernest Ranglin - Surfin'
24. Ali Farka Toure - Jungou