"We use a green '66 Tele with a humbucker and a Kent Armstrong [pickup] for much African work. But for Kenyan benga music, we play a Guild Starfire semi-acoustic with 24 frets -- you have to play high, high, high. It has rather bad pickups -- the music doesn't sound right without that weird crosstalk, noise, and debris. Our Hawaiian guitar is a non-name plank with high-output pickups, and we also have a number of banjos, acoustics, and dobros.
"Hijaz' bouzouki was built by John Levoi, an English maker who also recreates Maccaferri guitars for Django Reinhardt fiends. It duplicates the dimensions of Hijaz' older Greek-style bouzouki, but it has a solid body instead of a hollow round one. It's about as heavy as a Les Paul, and it has two Kent Armstrong pickups. The traditional bouzouki pickup, however, is the Ideal, a guitar pickup from God-knows-where. All the great players use it, and they all play Fender Twins with everything but the bass on 10, including the reverb -- it's brain-splitting treble.
"Hijaz tunes in the modern Greek fashion: D A F C [top to bottom], the upper two courses in unison, the lower two in octaves. It's like the top four strings of a guitar, but with a whole-step down. That's how they've been doing it in Greece since Manolis Hiotis, who originally played the three-course bouzouki, went electric in the '40s. In bouzouki playing, he has the stature of T-Bone Walker or Charlie Christian. He amplified it, played it loud, and added the extra set of strings because he saw that guitar players had extra harmonic range. It's a good example of a master of the old tradition becoming an innovator."
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