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Steffen Basho Junghans



Somewhere between the rhythmic rigidity of Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint and the wide-open guitar wanderings of Loren MazzaCane Connors lies Steffen Basho-Junghans. Junghans is a self-taught artist, acoustic guitarist, and composer whose background as a performer goes back to 1978 and the German group Wacholder. Although his initial influences were Frank Zappa and Mahivishnu Orchestra, it was Leo Kottke who inspired Junghans's first major epiphany. Junghans decided to pursue steel string and 12-string acoustic guitar composition and soon became a prominent figure in the East German music scene. In 1981 he founded an annual "all-style" guitar festival in Potsdam. It was the first guitar festival in Germany to focus on experimental and alternative styles. It later moved to Berlin to reach a wider audience.

Jungans's second major epiphany came when he heard the music of Robbie Basho. Junghans writes, "It was like opening a new portal. When I heard more about him and his music I understood that I had to go through him. My path got a name. I took the name 'Basho', not because Robbie was my hero; rather, I saw a line in philosophy from Matsuo Basho over Robbie Basho to myself. In that way, with deep respect, I wanted to remember Robbie, his music, his part in the history." From there on out, Steffen Junghans was known as Steffen "Basho" Junghans.

Over a little over a decade, Junghans has released five records in Germany on Blue Moment Arts, and three in the United States on Portland-based Strange Attractors Audio House. On the first of the U.S. albums, 2001's Inside, Junghans combines Native American, Asian, and European classical styles, filtering all through his own unique experimental style. For 2002's splendid Waters in Azure, Junghans is said to have drawn inspiration from themes of "structure, space, and state" in creating wildly strange, organic compositions that merge minimalist technique, American blues, Eastern raga, and the folk guitar tradition. 2003's Rivers and Bridges is a rich series of meditations on the six- and twelve-string guitar that seem to explore the themes of the album's title while providing a stylistic link between Junghans's personal vision for the acoustic guitar and the legacy of Basho, John Fahey and the other guitarists of the Takoma label (one 17-minute piece here is titled "The Takoma Bridge Incident"). Like Basho and Fahey before him, Junghans uses his guitar as a luminous bridge between the soul of traditional and ethnic music and the intellect of modern experimental music.