The words “Italian” and “He plays a mean guitar” don’t go hand in hand naturally. After all how many Italian guitar wizards can you think of?
Italy’s Beppe Gambetta is challenging all that preconception. He has won world-wide acclaim for his highly individual acoustic guitar playing which combines European and American styles.
Beppe is a native of (and still resident in ) Genoa in the Liguria province on the north west coast of Italy. It was here he first heard the music of the legendary US folk/country/bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson.
“It was so purely acoustic, and it has so much energy. So I devoted many years to learn this style,” he told Washington newspaper Express. “I travelled through the United States and tried to meet with all the great heroes of this music. So I met with Norman Blake, Dan Crary, David Grier, John Jorgenson and I recorded with each of them and produced my first album, Dialogs. It was one of the great moments of my career, and people started to know about me and respect me.”
However Beppe refused to forget his Italianness. In his music, he fuses country music and Ligurian tradition, emigration songs, and folk ballads, with a healthy disregard for any kind of classification. As his website says, “America in his heart and his roots in the sun and the olive trees of the Mediterranean sea”.
As far Beppe he is concerned, there are definite parallels between Italian and American folk.
“Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, he found a Neapolitan mandolin in his house,” he said in Express, “and decided to become a mandolinist because somehow, someone in his house had a Neapolitan mandolin
“In Sardinia there is a form of guitar that is different from a regular guitar. It’s bigger and it’s tuned a couple of steps down. It’s played with a big pick with some interesting movements that are similar to what in America is called crosspicking. I did some studies of the melodies and the techniques, and I incorporated this into my playing.”
Beppe is also a regular fixture in American folk/roots festivals such has Walnut Valley Festival and Kerrville Folk Festival, and Canada’s Winnipeg and Edmonton folk festivals - where he holds his own against American greats like Doc Watson, Gene Parsons, and Bela Fleck.
Beppe plays The Crane Bar, Sea Road, on Thursday February 4 at 9pm. Admission is €12.50. For tickets contact The Crane on 091 - 587419.