American guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman was found dead at his home in Ben Lomond (Santa Cruz County, California) in the evening of April 23rd. Details about the cause are unknown. He was 59 years old.
Bob Brozman was born in New York in 1954. He was involved in music since early childhood. A guitarist since age 6, Mr. Brozman discovered National resophonic guitars at age 13. In their unique sound, the young Bob found his musical calling. He studied music and ethnomusicology at Washington University with a focus on the earliest roots of Delta blues. He became a respected authority on historical Hawaiian music, publishing articles and put together a large collection of 78rpm records. He produced five re-issue albums from this collection on the Rounder and Folklyric labels, documenting the best of Hawaiian music from 1915 to 1935.
In 1988, Bob Brozman rediscovered the legendary 1929 Hawaiian recording artists, the Tau Moe Family. Together they recorded a landmark album, Remembering The Songs Of Our Youth, a historic re-creation of the family’s genuine Hawaiian music from 60 years prior. The album was released in 1989 to rave international reviews, including the Library of Congress Select List Award. With National endowment of the Arts funding, Mr. Brozman began production of a feature-length documentary film about the Moe family and their amazing 54-year-long world tour.
Over the years, Mr. Brozman’s passion for National Guitars led him to build a large collection of these attractive art-deco era instruments. After receiving a letter from the then-88-year-old inventor John Dopyera, Mr. Brozman visited and became good friends with John and his family. This led to further research, and in 1993 Mr. Brozman’s massive work The History And Artistry Of National Resonator Instruments was published internationally. He has also written for several music magazines concerning historical and instructional subjects.
In 2001 he released Nankuru Naisa (Riverboat Records ) with Okinawan vocalist and sanshin maestro Takashi Hirayasu as well as an array of guest musicians Los Lobos’s David Hidalgo.
Mahima, a collaboration with Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya came out in 2003. On Mahima the two guitarists explored the blues, Hawaiian and Indian music. The album also featured vocalist Sutapa Bhattacharya and tabla master Subhashis Bhattacharya.
Mr. Brozman’s 2005 release Songs of the Volcano (CD/DVD) documented his two journeys to Papua New Guinea in 2003 and 2004, when he recorded with 60 musicians from five string bands.
In 2007 he released Lumière, an album featuring the Bob Brozman Orchestra – a unique concept where Mr. Brozman intricately played each instrumental part, building layer upon layer to formulate the tremendous sound of an extensive orchestra. He revisited the influences drawn from previous collaborations with artists such as Debashish Bhattacharya, René Lacaille, Djeli Moussa Diawara and Takashi Hirayasu to reflect on the profound effect travel had on his life.
Bob Brozman teamed up with John McSherry and Dónal O’Connor on Six Days In Down (2010). In this project, Brozman fused his characteristic guitar sound with Irish music, featuring the uilleann pipes played by virtuoso John McSherry and the fiddle, played by maestro Dónal O’Connor. The album also featured vocalist Stephanie Makem.
Mr. Brozman’s deep knowledge of musical history and arranging enabled him to create large band arrangements and direct music for film, radio, television, and stage. His rhythmic style featured elements of blues, jazz, Gypsy swing, calypso, and even the most modern beats. His chords and harmonies were a blend of timbres from Hawaiian, Indian, African, Japanese/Okinawan, Caribbean, and American roots.
“Bob is beloved to me, and to so many in so many countries,” says longtime friend and pianist, George Winston. “His legacy will live on and will no doubt become the standard-bearer to musical innovators for decades to come.”
His most recent record was last year’s Fire in the Mind, a blues album with a diversity of new and old stringed instruments, including instruments not normally used for blues.
Mr. Brozman is survived by his wife and partner of 15 years, Haley Sage Robertson Brozman, daughter Zoe Brozman, 20, and brothers in New York City along with a large international community of friends and fans. It is their desire to carry out Bob’s vision in the creation of a foundation to help third-world musicians obtain the musical basics that western musicians take for granted,
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.