Thursday, January 1, 2009


If I had to pick one favorite guitarist (impossible!), it would probably be D'Gary. I discovered his playing (and was introduced to the world of Malagasy guitar) on two Shanachie CDs, The Moon and the Banana Tree and A World Out of Time, Vol. 3, where I heard this song for the first time.

Earlier this year, I drafted a post on D'Gary as I was planning a week devoted to finger-style guitarists but was interrupted in the process and never got back to it. In the meanwhile, maxthenomad put together this video with a different version of the song for which I'm very grateful because there were just a couple of not very high quality D'Gary videos available.

I use this song as part of a compilation for my young beginner guitar students as the finest example of what can be done with two fingers on the guitar. Although D'Gary's playing is phenomenal whether or not you are a musician, if you play finger-style guitar well (which I do), there is an entirely different level of appreciation for his unique skill. Here's the version I first heard:

Mpirak' Aomby II

I can't find credits for the liner notes on A World Out of Time, Vol. 3 (though it might be Henry Kaiser who, with David Lindley is responsible for bringing this music to the world's attention) but here is the description of D'Gary with an explanation of the song from those notes.
Mpirak' Aomby II

Ernest Randrianasolo (called D'Gary) is, perhaps, the major recording debut to emerge from the Shanachie recording expeditions. A member of the Bara tribal group of the South, D'Gary is a truly original guitarist and musical visionary. He lives in a small village in the south that is several days travel from the main road. D'Gary is unique in that he has succeeded in transferring the music of many traditional Malagasy instruments (valiha, marovany, kabosy and lokanga) to finger-picked acoustic guitar in all of their glorious musical complexity. He uses 11 different guitar tunings and picks with only the thumb and index finger of his right hand. His first solo CD is entitled Malagasy Guitar (Shanachie 65009). This is an alternate and quite different take of a song from his second CD recorded together within Louisiana during an American tour. D'Gary's lyrics describe the cowherd who has spent many days and nights alone with his animals in the pasture. He has looked forward to going home and is finally happy to see his father and mother, to be safe once again with his family as night falls.

If you're interested in reading more about Malagasy guitar playing, go to Ian Anderson's wonderfully thorough treatise Guitara Gasy.

Ian's discography for the music of Madagascar.
Afropop's discography for Madagascar.

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