Leave no genre behind

The Ropeadope New Music Seminar, a traveling showcase featuring the talents of a variety of genre-skipping musical protegs that brought its musical menagerie, including 8-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, to Suede on Tuesday, is a tour surrounded by the hype of its respective underground sensations.

But, when the tour stopped in Utah earlier this week, Ropeadope’s was not the only reputation that preceded the tour-the Beehive state had a dubious honor to claim as well.

“Your state is kind of crazy for Bush, huh?” said Hunter, all-around Ropeadope musical wonder boy.

But, while our nation’s democratic process may not please Hunter, he seems at least content with the constitutional ideals of “all genres created equal,” evidenced by his participation in a truly musically democratic tour currently crossing the country.

Hunter is “one of the few simultaneous guitar and bass players in the world,” according to the ISIC Travelmax Web site. He has also played with Michael Franti of Spearhead fame in the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy prior to forming the Charlie Hunter Trio in 1993.

Currently Hunter is on the Ropeadope music tour, a performance that consists of Hunter and his group Sex Mob, hip-hop artist Lyrics Born, rockers Critters Buggin’, and poet Rich Medina, among others. A typical show consists of a non-stop, four-hour set in which some or all of the musicians play together, improvising on the spot, continually changing the on-stage line-up.

“We’re just going to play and see what happens. It will be different every night, very different every night,” Hunter said. “It’s going to be a crazy music extravaganza.”

The Ropeadope musicians as a whole are taking an educational stance to communicate to music students that music does not have boundaries. Clearly, many musicians can hardly be pinned down to only one musical genre, and the Ropeadope New Music Seminar is taking the drivers seat in genre cross pollination.

“The truth is we’re just trying to get the concept and the whole thing off the ground now,” Adam Hurwitz said. “The education part to us is almost as important, if not more important, than the music.”

While the nature of the showcase is something new for the American music scene, Hunter is something of a veteran-he does this type of thing in New York all the time.

In addition to Ropeadope, Hunter has previously collaborated with Medeski Martin and Wood, Franti, Fred Wesley, DJ Logic and many other renowned jazz, pop, rock and hip-hop musicians.

Hunter’s unique 8-string guitar incorporates three bass strings and five guitar strings. The instrument has a necessarily distorted fret board to accommodate both bass and guitar strings and the space that is required between frets.

To play this instrument, Hunter thumbs a bass line and plays a melody with the remaining four fingers of his right hand while fretting both the bass and treble notes with the left hand.

Hunter, who studied guitar under Joe Satriani in the 1980s, decided to play his uncommon instrument “to try to get into some different modus operandi.” While bassists and guitarists were a dime a dozen, Hunter sought to “occupy a different space in the music than just a guitar or just a bass would,” similar to the way in which the Ropeadope festival occupies different musical space than any other tour today.

“Someone has got to stop playing the lead,” Hunter said.

Hunter, who was previously with Blue Note Records, has recently released a record on the Ropeadope label called Friends Seen and Unseen. The minimalist record, with only three players, lucidly features Hunter’s skills with smooth bass lines and simultaneous melodies.

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