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Cigar Box Guitar

From the Cigars to the Music

cigar box guitarA large number of cigar smokers and musicians alike, are still to discover the art of Guitar Making from Cigar Boxes. Despite their unique and innovative sound, the producers of Cigar Box Guitars are still very rare. Like the name suggests, this stringed instrument is created by simply recycling cigar boxes as the resonator chest, then adding other materials to complete the instrument (so you could say they are quite simply a "Recycled Guitar").

It is often said, that the guitar is the soul of the Blues, not everyone is aware of the origins of the word 'guitar'.

The Cigar Box Guitar was first founded by the delta of Mississippi at the beginning of the 18th century, it has to be said that the cigar boxes were one of many devices used for fabricating this resonating chests (maybe the most noble), to which a piece of wood was added (often from brooms) for the neck and where the strings were tied to (this also in variable numbers but usually between 2 or 6).

cigar box guitarThe proposers and users of this instrument were almost exclusively afro americans (but only used by a few), too poor to afford a guitar at the time, but at the same time too resolute to resign not to keep their own culture alive with their own preferred medium: popular music. These miniature guitars were often so measly that they couldn't afford all the 6 strings, which today you couldn't go without; often even lacking in structural elements that connect the neck to the body or other elements basic in modern crafts. Not only has it permitted Jimi Hendrix to play his first notes as a child, but it's just on these instruments where techniques were invented that are still used today, such as the use of the bottleneck, the slide and the open chords.

The so called Delta Blues beginning 900's was born with this instruments, true roots of the sonority of the "Black Music" (and not just). It's incredible to think that within a century, thanks to people that today are acknowledged as icons of music, we arrived to the genres that we listen to today: Rock, Jazz, Soul (with its million nuances), Funk, Gospel... and let's not forget the Pop and Hip Hop music, which seem to be the farthest from it, are just the youngest branches of this genealogical tree.

The black music is a small but big "concept" that comes from traditions of faraway folks. Its influence, once disembarked to other continents, developed in difficult times (like the slavery) and arrives transfigured to the present with a business that gradually has come to compete with Europe's music market (initially an entirely different abstraction, whereas today its widely contaminated).

The curious thing is that the modern instruments haven't necessarily replaced the use of this primordial stringed instrument! It's easy to notice on the net, the widespread use to conserve or even construct this rudimental instrument of wood at home, sometimes even electrifying them! If you're asking yourself about the reason for all this, because you're probably not a musician, therefore you could mistake it for an extravagance or a whim from those eternal children better known as artists.

In reality the primordial richness that emerged from a Cigar Box so "roots" how they are defined, have scared an era. Being the symbolic point of origin of an overwhelming secular route.

Thus we can define it as some European instruments or some African percussions: a classic! And that which is classic... Never fades.

Article Courtesy of Cigars Lover Magazine
Written by Giovanni Bolzonella