GGG archive – Interview with Dan Williams – cuatros, koras, learning and Warthogs in the Mist

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Dan Williams

While out on the cliffs near West Bay last year, a voice uttered a by now familiar phrase – “Are you Gerald?”.
It was a surprise and great pleasure to see Dan Williams, whom I haven’t spoken to for around twenty years!
He happened to live and have a workshop in Bridport.

West Bay cliffs 29E77CE1-2060-4288-A1BB-020D4BF4E01C

The next day, Alison and I visited and were fascinated to see all the instruments he had been making – Venezuelan cuatros and West African Koras as well as fascinating wooden sculptures and artifacts.

We first met when holidaying in France with his elder brother John (the guitarist!) in the 80s.

He had met Venezuelan guitarist and composerAlfonso Montes who features on John Williams’ album ‘El Diablo Suelto’ and became interested in the cuatro through that meeting.

Dan plays as well as makes his own instruments and has a background in film animation and woodwork. He learned to play from his father  Len Williams, as did his famous brother.


Dan was about to start work in his first guitar, so I took the opportunity to ask him about his life and how it had taken so long for him to get around to making a guitar!

Musicwood – instrument making and sustainability

For hundreds of years guitars have been made the same way, but now this could all change. A new music documentary, “MUSICWOOD” follows the journey of a band of the most famous (acoustic) guitar-makers in the world as they attempt to save a primeval forest and the acoustic guitar.

Musicwood Documentary – 2 min trailer from Helpman Productions on Vimeo.

Link at Acoustic Nation

Of course, Paul Fischer already foresaw the problem of diminishing stocks of precious instrument hardwoods and in 1983 he was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to extend his research into the forest of Brazil.
He produced many instruments with alternative, non-threatened hardwood species and did a memorable “blind test” with John Mills playing traditional Brazilian rosewood and mixed other species (e.g. Kingwood, Jaguar wood) behind a curtain, with the audience invited to judge whether or not they could tell the difference.
Nowadays, it is quite common to find instruments made of alternative hardwoods (the most common and long standing being the so-called “Indian” rosewood). but Paul was a pioneer who did research with the help of native Brazilians such as Sergio Abreu.

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