Introduction: Guitars, Cultures, People
Kevin Dawe and Andy Bennett
The guitar is in every respect a global phenomenon. The instrument has gained a central place in, and has helped to define, musical genres worldwide. Both electric and acoustic variations of the guitar are commonplace elements in the music of a variety of cultures around the world. As such, it is very difficult to provide satisfactory accounts of the guitar's cultural appeal using monocultural accounts. Rather, it is important to gain a sense of the guitar as a globally mobile instrument whose form, tonal textures and associated playing techniques are the product of its appropriation and use in a variety of locally specific musical contexts. Equally important in accounting for the cultural significance of the guitar is an understanding of the cultures to which the instrument itself has given rise. The term ‘guitar culture’, as it is used here, refers to the guitar makers, guitar players and audiences who imbue guitar music and the instrument itself with a range of values and meanings through which it assumes its place as a cultural icon. A key question addressed by this book is how, why and in what ways people use the guitar in the musical construction of self, others and communities. In other words, we are interested in the meanings that guitar makers, guitar collectors, guitar players and their audiences bring to guitars and guitar music. Similarly, we are also interested in examining the ways in which guitar makers, makes of guitar, and guitar players themselves become icons at national and global levels.
In order to examine the guitar phenomenon, we have assembled an international group of scholars working in a range of academic disciplines. As such, this book constitutes something of a first, bringing together for the first time in a single volume a collection of original studies of the guitar grounded in a wide range of disciplines including musicology, ethnomusicology, anthropology, ethnography, sociology, folklore, cultural studies and cultural history. Most of the contributors to this book have been directly involved with the guitar, for example, as performers, teachers and collectors, for a number of years. Combined with this experience, the contributors offer a wide range of theoretical perspectives on the role of the guitar in musical culture, the studies presented here arising out of varying degrees of direct and personal engagement with the instrument and with the societies and cultures that surround and create it.