Friday, May 20, 2016

Robbie Basho The Seal of the Blue Lotus

Originally released on John Fahey’s Takoma Records in 1965, The Seal of the Blue Lotus is the debut album from American guitar soli legend Robbie Basho. In college Basho immersed himself in the study of Asian art and culture, even changing his last name to that of the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, and his music shows a much greater Eastern influence than contemporaries like John Fahey and Peter Lang. Basho was particularly entranced by the raga form which is apparent in classics like “Dravidian Sunday” from this album.

About Robbie Basho´s style and musical philosophy:

Trying to describe the music of Robbie Basho with tabulature and tunings is only half of the truth. The main thing is the vision to find the essence of cultures and places: the hue of nature's colors to paint with guitar and voice. Robbie's early compositions were often rough-hewn, long-winding gems full of expression and romantic visions and rooted in the new folk scene of the late 50s/ early 60s (Washington, Berkeley...).(He talked about creating “Zen-Buddhist-Cowboysongs”....) Along with his studies of flamenco techniques, blues, classical music, bluegrass, Oriental, American Indian and Hindu textures (the entire universe is potential), and his experiments to find alternative tunings to express a wide range of emotions and colors, he became one of the pioneers, besides John Fahey, of the contemporary steel-string guitar and the most important forerunner of the later New Age movement.

However, Robbie's music expresses more than contemplative beauty -it is dramatic art. With his simple philosophy "soul first -technique later", Robbie developed his own musical universe to marry the spirit and rhythms of Eastern philosophies with Western folk and classical approaches. His style was a study of various different playing techniques with very complex right-hand picking patterns (using the fingernails) and a great left-hand freedom, often working very linear up the neck.In his later years he claimed to use about 30 seperate tunings and various picking-styles.But his overriding interest was not to play a technical contest or sound exotic, but to broaden the dimensions of what we know as our own.

  • Robbie Basho´s Esoteric Doctrine of Color & Mood for 12&6 string guitar

  • (published in the album notes of the first “The Seal of the Blue Lotus” issue)


    basic chord chart
    E purple grey 'blues',classic, normal
    Em black, dark-blue blues pathetique, soul black religious black rose, sombre-evil
    C yellow, pristine white sunshine
    D green quiet pastoral Runnymede, Irish meadowlands
    Dm dark green, violet-grey-black darkness, agony-death thin smoky silver
    A red, sunset brave ochre wine & roses in some blues, the alternate grey-blue form
    Am oakbrown, carmina dolorous solid sorrow mature
    F orange-white orange creamsicle,deep orange
    B burnished carmine brown-red
    Bm blood red bravado-danger batfang-romilar red fantasies
    modal tunings chart
    open G dark blue, purple-pink deep blues, mountain snows International Tuning: Tibet-India-Japan-Blues all purpose
    open D forest green closed D full , Joe Spence
    Dm grey black-green midevil onyx projection, night heron green,
    Buffy Saint Marie
    Dm modal
    frog minor
    grey-black green anguish death  AC+DC
    full sweetness
    most solid model, tight boundaries
    Tolley D light green spring twilight tone
    fleeting west-sausilito
    mint texture, western lullaby
    utilizing the cocktail string
    C sunyellow, gold, emeraldgreen majestic, grand symphonic                Krisna
    B experimental Irish Mystic-leading to japanese images
    E black blues Fahey -Sullivan Blind Willy Johnson
    Gm7 black wash Black Nirvana reverent Black Lotus Fugen Tuning
    Mary Koth
    Cm Holy Gold Pattonwhite auric reverence, The Grail Chord Chord for Orthodox Christian Mysticism of
    Oriental origen

  • Some Robbie Basho guitar tunings:

  • (Robbie played many variations of the open C tuning. Note, that he tuned his 12string guitar between 3 and 6 half steps lower (on his earlier records mostly 4-6, later-Windham Hill- 3-4) because of the use of medium strings and how the guitars and strings "worked" best for the tunings. Every guitar works different for a tuning; little bit lower or higher...He always tried to find the best pitch for a good sound of a tuning.)

    Open C(standard) CGCGCE ..Song of the Stallion, The Lady, She is in Waiting, Scottish Rites, Variations on Grieg, Variations on Claire De Lune....
    C-2 CGCGCD - Song of the Queen, Roses and Snow
    ( Hopi Tuning )
    Cmodal CGCGCC  
    CGCGCF - Green River Suite
    C-41 CGCGBC - Turkish
    C-14 CGCGG#C - Japanese (Tassajara-Zen)
    C-43 CGCGBD - Rocky Mountain
    Cminor CGCGCD# - The Grail and the Lotus
    C-55 CGCFA#D# - The Montreal
    C-32 CGCGA#C - California Raga
    C-23 CAGAGC - Navaho Tuning
    C-34 CGCGA#D - All American Indian Tuning
    CGCD#GA# - Hymn to Fugen
    D48435 DF#DF#AD - Venus in Cancer
    D39343 DFDFAC - Nightway
    DGDGBDb - Cathedrals et Fleur de Lis
    DADF#ADb - Babs

    01. Bardo Blues – “An attempt at a musical rendering of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It moves thru the beginning of death, subsequent limbo voyages, into rebirth. The voyage moves geographically from Africa to India to the Roof of the World, Tibet. The style is that of my old wandering. For the initial technique I am indebted to the master guitarist – Bruce Langhorn.”

    02. Black Lotus – Hymn To Fugen – “A blackwash painting of tonalities in the realm of the Black Lotus. I am aided by wodden organ, drums and templebells. I am also very indebted to Allain Ribback on drone guitar. He made these pieces possible. Fugen is the Goddess of the Lotus Sutra, of Charity, of Gentleness. This is a hymn of deep spiritual passion rising and falling and finally rolling on the carpet of the clear with the aid of Sweet Bhikshu Bells.”

    03. Dravidian Sunday – “Dravidian is an ancient race in India. The theme is poured out with Hindu flesh paints. Elephants of a Golden Age in Hindu history. From this beginning the piece is developed from that time era to the present North American continent and its sounds, exploring and remembering, climaxing and returning to where the clouds move away and birds chirp at that break of day so old and yet so young.”

    04. Mountain Man’s Farewell – “Sometimes I feel the flavor of Cosmic Essences: the hue of nature colours; Moods given to the airs of music. In this piece and several others I enter what I call the Theatre of North American Taoism. This continent is new, the rocks are raw, the winds are sharp, the heart is rash and wild. The Taoistic Essence of China and Japan are aged with the mildness of human culture. Ours, being new bites like the persimmon to be aged to the taste of the universe. Standing on Lone Dark Mountain, overlooking all of North America, the raw echo of the Eagle Man, onto Bowel Mountain an, the Soul Heart of the men red and white who made the Mountain Man Ear, an Epic Picture whose bloodstrain is carried up to a Present of many soul-brothers. An echo of farewell and away into past Karma. The Snowstorm technique, a n innovation of mine is here used at its fullest.”

    05. Sansara In Sweetness After Sandstorm – “It is done in D minor modial /Frog minor). Flowing naked into the beauty getting clobbered by a sandstorm and flowing out again.”

    06. Seal Of The Blue Lotus – “The basic texture for this piece was taken from Ravi Shankar’s “Dhun in Musra Mund,” a raga invoking the Religious Springrasa Mood in Hindu Aesthetics. With this base I inject the Taoistic Taint of the Blue Lotus wich is a musical realm of my own. The guitar is tuned in the color blue, wich is standard Open G tuning with the 2nd and 4th strings dropped to a minor.”

    Selected Discography
    • -The Seal of the Blue Lotus (1965) Takoma 1005 (***+ /SBJ personal rating)

      Seal of the Blue Lotus/1st A)-Seal of the Blue Lotus ( 6str.g, vocal),
      -Mountain Man's Farewell (12str.g ),
      -Dravidian Sunday (6str.g)
      B)-Bardo Blues (6str.g),
      -Sansara in Sweetness after Sandstorm (12str.g, voice),
      -Black Lotus - Hymn to Fugen (6str.g)

    • -Contemporary Guitar (1966/Compilation) Takoma 1006

      Contemorary Guitar/1st special works just for this album by;

      -John Fahey, Max Ochs, Harry Taussig, Bukka White
      RB-track: The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose (6str.guitar)

    • -The Grail and the Lotus (1966) Takoma 1007 (****)

      The Grail and the Blue Lotus/1st A)-The Grail and the Lotus (6str.g),
      -The Dharma Prince (6str.g),
      -Oriental Love Song (6str.g, whistling)
      B)-The Golden Shamrock (6str.g),
      -Street Dakini (6str.g),
      -Chung Mei - Chinese Orchid (6str.g, whistling)
      rec: Feb.12,19,26,1966 KPFA

    • -Basho Sings! (1967) Takoma 1012 (****)

      Basho Sings A)-Salangadou (6str.,vocal),
      -Allons Au Ball Colinda (6str.g, vocal),
      - Katari Takawaitha (6str.g, vocal),
      -Basket Full of Dragons (12str.g,vocal),
      -Soliloquy (6str.g, vocal),
      -Tibetian Bach (6str.g, vocal)
      B)Dance Calinda (6str.g, vocal),
      -Basho's Blues (6str.g, vocal),
      -Black Mare Moan (6str.g, vocal),
      -New Lhasa New Year's Chorale (12str.g, voice)

    • -The Falconer’s Arm,Vol.1 (1967) Takoma 1017 (****)

      The Falconer's Arm I A)-The Falconer's Arm (12str.guitar),
      -Tassajara (Zen Shinji)(6str.guitar/Susan Graubard -flute)
      B)-Lost Lagoon Suite (12str.guitar),
      -Pavan Hindustan (6str.guitar), -Babs (6str.guitar)

    • -The Falconer’s Arm,Vol.2 (1967) Takoma 1018 (****)

      The Falconer's Arm II A)-Variations on "Shakespeare Wallah" (6str.g, voice),
      -Song of the Snowy Ranges (6str.guitar)
      B)-Pasha (6str.g, vocal),
      -Song of God (12str.g,voice)

    • -Venus in Cancer (1969) Blue Thumb 10 (*****)

      Venus in Cancer A)-Venus in Cancer (6str.guitar),
      -Eagle sails the Blue Diamond Waters (12str.g, voice),
      -Kowaka D'Amour (6str.guitar)
      B)-Song for the Queen (6str.g, vocal),
      -Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis (12str.guitar),
      -Wine Song -(Sweet Wine Of Love) (6str.g, vocal)

    • -Song of the Stallion (1971) Takoma 1031 (*****)

      Song of the Stallion A)-Song of the Stallion (12str.g, vocal),
      -A North American Raga (The Plumstar)(6str.g, vocal),
      -The Lady, She is in Waiting (6str.g),
      B)-Roses and Snow (6str.g, vocal),
      -California Raga (6str.g, vocal),
      -The Hajj (12str.g),
      -Khatum (12str.g)

    • -The Voice of the Eagle (1972) Vanguard 79321 (****)

      Venus in Cancer A) -The Voice of the Eagle (12str.g,vocal),
      -Wounded Knee Soliloquy (6str.g, vocal),
      -Blue Corn Serenade (6str.g, vocal)
      B)-Joseph (6str.g, vocal),
      -Omaha Tribal Prayer (6str.g, vocal),
      -Sweet Medicine (12str.g, whistling),
      -Roses and Gold (6str.g, vocal),
      -Moving Up A Ways (6str.g, vocal)

    • -Zarthus (1974) Vanguard 79339 (*****)

      Zarthus A) -Zarthus (12str.g, vocal),
      -Khoda É Gul É Abe (12str.g),
      -Mehera (p,vocal),
      -Khalil Gibran (6str.g,vocal),
      -Bride Divine (6str.g,vocal)
      B) -Rhapsody in Druz (p,vocal)

    • -Visions of the Country (1978) Windham Hill 1005(*****)
      (1981 on Pastels/Germany/B-ST-2026)

      Visions of the Country A) -Green River Suite (6str.g,vocal),
      -Rodeo (6str.g),
      -Rocky Mountain Raga (12str.g, vocal/Antoinette Marcus -v),
      -Variations on Easter (6str.g),
      -Blue Crystal Fire (6str.g,vocal)
      B) -Orphan's Lament (p,vocal),
      -Leaf in the Wind (p,whistling),
      -Night Way (6str.g,vocal),
      -Elk Dreamer's Lament (12str.g),
      -Call on the Wind (6str.g, vocal)

    • -Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 &12 (1979) Windham Hill 1010(*****)
      (1980 on Pastels/Germany/G-ST-2021)
      (1981 on Lost Lake Arts / LL-83)

      Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12 A) -The Grail and The Lotus (6str.g),
      -Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis (12str.g),
      -Pasha (6str.g,voice),
      -A Study for Steel String (6str.g),
      -Ackerman Special (6str.g),
      -Apres Midi American (6str.g)
      B) -Variations on Grieg (6str.g),
      -Scottish Rites (12str.g),
      -Pavan India (6str.g),
      -Variations on Ezumi (6str.g),
      -Variations on Claire De Lune (12str.g)

    • -Rainbow Thunder (Songs of the American West) (1981) Silver Label Rec.029 (****)

      Rainbow Thunder A) -Redwood Ramble (6str.g),
      -Crashing Thunder (12str.g, voice),
      -Moving Up A'Ways (6str., voice),
      -Legend of Mount Tamalpias (6str.g,voice),
      -Rainbow Thunder (6str.g,voice)
      B) -The Pathfinder (6str.g, voice),
      -The White Buffalo (12str.g,voice),
      -Home Again (6str.g,drum,voice),
      -The Long Lullaby (12str.g,voice),
      -Black Hills Sololoquy (6str.g,voice)

    • -Basho’s Best (Antolog.) (1982) MC/Basho -Productions


      A) - Tassajara-Zen Shinji 9:45, - Lost Lagoon Suite 12:11, - Kowaka D’Amour 6:38
      B) - Variations of Shakespeare Wallah 13:47, - Song of the Queen 9:30, -California Raga 9:24)

    • -Bouquet (1983) MC/Basho -Productions (*****)

      Basho's cover Bouquet

      Basho's Cover - Bouquet
      A) -The Golden Medallion (6str.g,voice),
      -Khalil Gibran (6str.g,voice),
      -The White Swallow (6str.g,voice),
      -The Polish Rider (6str.g,voice),
      -El Cid (6str.g,voice)
      B) -Lightening Thunder (6str.g,voice),
      -Land of Our Fathers (Hopi Hymn)(12str.g,voice/feat. the Consortium of the Arts Choir, dir. by David Hogan),
      -Tears of Teresa (6str.g,voice),
      -Blues from Lebanon (6str.g,voice),
      -The Song of Leila (6str.g,voice),
      -The White Princess (p,)

    • -Twilight Peaks (1984) MC/Basho -Prod./The Art of Relaxation/Vital Body (****)

      Twilight Peaks A) -Twilight Peaks (6str.g),
      -Nice Enough For Love (6str.g),
      -Afternoon and Evening (6str.g),
      -Where Butterflies in Winter Go (6str.g)
      B) -Japan Idyll (6str.g),
      -Camelot II (6str.g),
      -Golden Dragon (6str.g),
      -Lament For The Earth (6str.g)
      Basho's flyer Twilight Peaks
      Basho's Flyer

    • 2008 -ROBBIE BASHO "BONN 1ST SUPREME" Bo'Weavil Recordings (***+)
      (live 1980 at Kulturforum Bonn/Germany)

      Bonn 1st Supreme -Redwood Ramble (6str.g),
      -Fandango (12str.g, voc),
      -Variations on 'Easter' (6str.g),
      -Rocky Mountain Raga (12str.g, voc),
      -Cathedrals et Fleur de Lis (12str.g),
      -German Chocolate Cake (6str.g, voc),
      -Silky Jane (6str.g),
      -The Grail and the Lotus (6str.g),
      -Pavan India (6str.g),
      -Variations on Claire de Lune (12str.g),
      -California Raga (6str.g, voc)

      unofficial re-release:

    • 1975? - "Robbie Basho, Indian Album II"
      -unreleased studio recordings for Vanguard, published digitally 2007 as "Indian II" like the tapes were labeled

      1. A Day in the Life of Lemmeria (p,whistling,vocal)- 6:52 (earlier v. of "Leaf in the Wind" /Visions of the Country)
      2. Night Way (6str.g,vocal)- 6:16 (>> Visions of the Country)
      3. The Butterfly of Wonder (12str.g,vocal)- 2:52
      4. Laughing Thunder (12str.g,vocal)- 7:02 (>altern.: "Crashing Thunder" on Rainbow Thunder)
      5. Thunder Sun (12str.g,vocal)- 6:07
      6. Kateri Takekithwa (6str.g,vocal)- 4:31
      7. Thunder Love (12str.g,vocal)- 6:07
      8. Song of the Great Mystery (6str.g)- 7:34
      9. Death Song (6str.g,vocal)- 3:45


    • 1975 live version of "Wounded Knee", recorded Live at the United State Cafe (link see Special/live)
    • 1975 live at Amazingrace (Evanston, IL)(link see Special/live)
    • 1978 live at the Sinclair Auditorium/Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (July, 22,1978) (see Special/live)
    • 1980 live at Bonn Kultur Forum /European Tour>>2008 Bonn 1st Supreme
    • 1982 live at the Stone City General Store in Stone City, Iowa (see Special/live)
    • 1982 live in Brescia/Italy 10/1/82 /European Tour
    • 1. Song of the Stallion 2. Redwood Ramble 3. Rocky Mountain Raga 4. German Chocolate Cake 5. The Grail and the Lotus 6. Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis 7. Pavan India 8. Variations on Claire De Lune 9. The Polish Rider
      recorded interviews with live performance:
    • 1974 "Ode to Gravity" (Charles Amirkhanian)(link see Special/live)
    • 1980 "BFBS Night flight" Interview (Alan Bangs) and performance
    • 1983 "live from Studio One" /Cedar Falls 2/7/83 (Jennifer Alt/KUNI)(see Special/live)

    • RB on compilations:
    • 1971 - All Day Thumb Sucker (Sampler) Blue Thumb 2000

      All Day Thumb Sucker  RB-track:

      Robbie Basho – Eagle Sails The Blue Diamond Waters 6:45

    • 1981 - Windham Hill Records Sampler ‘81 (Sampler) W.Hill CD 0193411015
      -Visions of the Country was later removed from WH catalog, so the later edition
      of the WHill sampler missed "Elk Dreamer's Lament"

      Windham Hill Records Sampler '81  RB-tracks:

      -Variations on Ezumi, - Elk Dreamer's Lament

    • 1981 - The Best Of Acoustic Steel String Guitar Solos (Pastels/Germany/S-ST-2027)
      (Pastels Records Sampler '81)

      Windham Hill Records Sampler '81 w: William Ackerman, Alex De Grassi, Daniel Hecht, Michael Hedges

      -Elk Dreamer's Lament - 4:14, -Variations On Ezumi - 4:03

    • 1982(?)- Guitar Heaven /Sampler (Happy Bird/Germany/Q 90054)

      Guitar Heaven w: Alain Giroux, Michael Haumont, Jack Ada, Christian Séguret, Pierre Bensusan, Alex De Grassi, Jea-Marie Redon, William Ackerman,


      - Variations on Grieg 5:02

    • 1990 - Windham Hill -The First Ten Years (Windham Hill 0193411095)


      Variations on Claire De Lune (12str.g)

    • 1999 - TAKOMA ECLECTIC SAMPLER,vol 2 (Takoma TACD-8906/Fant.Inc)


      Black Mare Moan (6str.g, vocal)

    • 2006 - Imaginational Anthem: Volume Two (Tompkins Square)


      - Kowaka d'amour (16str.g)

    • 2007 - American Primitive Guitar (Tompkins Square)


      - Kowaka d'amour (16str.g)


    • 1996 - The Seal of the Blue Lotus (CD) (Fantasy,Inc./Ace Records Ltd.London)

    • 1996 - Guitar Soli (CD/Takoma TAKCD-8902-25/ConcordMusicGroup)

      Guitar Soli

      from "The Seal and the Lotus"(S) and "The Grail and the Lotus" (G):
       1 - Seal of the Blue Lotus (7:34)(S),
       2 - Mountain Man's Farewell (8:34) (S),
       3 - Dravidian Sunday (6:32),(S)
       4 - The Grail and the Lotus (6:00)(G),
       5 - The Dharma Prince (10:00)(G),
       6 - Oriental Love Song (5:56)(G),
       7 - Sansara in Sweetness After Sandstorm (6:05)(S),
       8 - Salangadou (4:12/from "Basho Sings!),
       9 - The Golden Shamrock (8:40)(G),
      10 - Street Dakini (6:28)(G),
      11 - Chung Mei - The Chinese Orchid (8:08)(G)

    • 2001 - The Voice of the Eagle (LP,CDVanguard/Comet Records)

    • 2001 - Bashovia (CD/Takoma TAKCD-8913-2/ConcordMusicGroup)
      (conceived by John Fahey)


       tracks: from "Falconer's Arm I":
      The Falconer's Arm - 9:51 / Tassajara - 9:46 / Lost Lagoon Suite - 12:16 / Pavan Hindustan - 6:18
      from "from Falconer's Arm II":
      Song of the Snowy Ranges - 8:33
      from Song of the Stallion:
      A North American Raga - 11:18 / Roses and Snow - 7:42 / California Raga - 9:11 / The Hajj - 5:12 / Khatum - 2:03

    • 2001 - Zarthus (LP,CD Vanguard/Comet Records/79339)

    • 2006 - Venus in Cancer (LP,CD Tompkins Square)

    • 2012 - Twilight Peaks (LP/CD/DL Smeraldina Rima)
      Twilight Peaks
      1. Twilight Peaks - 3:40
      2. Nice Enough for Love - 5:51l
      3. Afternoon and Evening - 4:00
      4. Where Butterflies in Winter Go - 4:31
      5. Japan Idyll - 5:55
      6. Camelot II - 6:14
      7. Golden Dragon - 4:50
      8. Lament for the Earth - 4:03

    • 2012 -The Seal of the Blue Lotus (LP, 4 Men With Beards)
      (with original 1st cover version)

    • 2013 -Land Of Our Fathers
      Grass-Tops Recording presents, freely to the public, a digitally restored/mastered track from "Bouquet" (Basho Productions, 1983)
      released 21 June 2013

    • 2013 -Visions of the Country, reissued on LP/CD by Grass-Tops Recording/Gnome Life Records Gnome Life Record (LP) / Grass-Tops Recording (CD)

      new issues:

    • -The 1st Robbie Basho Tribute album:(2010) >VA: We Are One, In The Sun: A Tribute To Robbie Basho | CD/LP/DL | Important Records
      we are all one, in the sun
      1. Steffen Basho-Junghans - Rolling Thunder Variation II
      2. Helena Espvall - Travessa Do Cabral
      3. Meg Baird - Moving Up A Ways
      4. Glenn Jones - 1337 Shatuck Avenue, Apartment D
      5. Arborea - Blue Crystal Fire
      6. Cian Nugent - Odour Of Plums
      7. Rahim AlHaj - Baghdad Athania
      8. Fern Night - Song For The Queen
      9. Steffen Basho-Junghans - Rocky Mountain Variations
      The digital album of We are All One, In the Sun will include evocative bonus tracks by Portuguese guitarist Joseba Irazoki, Israeli Yair Yona and English guitarist Cam Deas.