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Interview: Bob Brozman

12 February 2001

Musical Journey


Best known for his slide guitar playing, US author and musicologist Bob Brozman is visiting Australia on his never-ending musical journey. Brozman is passionate about learning and playing music created at the "frontiers of colonialism".

Marketed as the king of the national - or dobro - guitar, he has also written a book about the history of steel resonator instruments, but says he lost his lust for collecting the instruments when he saw rich collectors buy up in a day what took him decades to acquire.

On his latest album, Resonance, Brozman takes listeners around the world, collaborating with musicians from Okinawa, Japan; India; Hawaii; and Africa.

"There are certain elements of music that are universal," Brozman says. "Music actually activates the most primitive part of the brain."

While touring around Japan he came up with the idea of recording an album there.

A few months later he was sailing to a small remote island to make his critically acclaimed Jin Jin album with Okinawan musician Takashi Hirayasu. "Within an hour of meeting we were recording," Brozman says.

Brozman thrives on the spontaneity of his musical encounters. "I tend not to prepare the music because I don't want to arrive with preconceived ideas. That forces my extreme attention in the moment when it's going on."

Brozman applied the same approach to working with Indian musicians Debashish and Subhashis Bhattacharya on songs such as "Calcutta Blues" and "Menacing Ska Waltz."

"In that music there is no structure, no rehearsal, no planning, it's all present tense," he says. "I travel around the world outside the comfort zone, I'm not afraid of any music." He continues, "Some people in pop music are surrounded by a comfort zone and they're told that everything they do perfect. Because I'm not famous, when I arrive some place, nobody's impressed, they're not afraid to tell me if I'm doing it wrong. They don't look at me as a meal ticket and basically I just wind up with real friends."

Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar

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