With Steve’s art gaining attention, we thought it would be fun to share the story of Crispin’s guitar as one of the seminal stops along the journey that brought us to this place in time.
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Musicians make music. It’s what they do – discovering truths in progressions and phrases, curling up in the spaces between the notes.

But Crispin Mungure was so driven to catch the melodies in his mind that he did more than make music. He made his own guitar.

It’s likely you’ve never seen a musical instrument as crude as Crispin’s handmade guitar. In his tiny village of Weya in rural Zimbabwe, 17-year old Crispin lives with his father and younger siblings in a mud hut on communal land, land with marginal agricultural promise that was given to native Zimbabweans when white colonists came to their part of Africa. The economy in Zimbabwe is near collapse; in the village of Weya, known for its women artists, there is no money to buy musical instruments.

So Crispin took a single plank of rough wood and carved it in the shape of a guitar, hollowing out the body until it looked like an empty bowl. Across the top he affixed a piece of flattened metal cut from a colorful vegetable oil can, with a hole in the middle. He fastened it to the body with handmade nails fashioned from scrap copper. He scratched fret marks across the neck with a knife and fashioned rough pegs from wooden sticks. Now all he needed were guitar strings; he removed brake cables from old bicycles in his village, stripped off their plastic sheaths, unwound the wire and affixed it to his guitar.

The tone was tinny and faint. But Crispin had his guitar.

“The person who works with me in Zimbabwe, named John, said to me, ‘There’s this guy in Weya who’s a really talented musician. He’s composing music as well as playing and singing. You have to hear him,’” recalls Dick Adams. After years as a professor at Lewis & Clark College, Dick left in 1999 to create the nonprofit Zimbabwe Artists Project, to help the women of Weya become self-sufficient by marketing their art in America. Last fall Dick was in Zimbabwe and heard Crispin play his homemade guitar.

Dick was so taken by Crispin’s talent that the next time he phone Portland he suggested that his wife, Wendy Rankin, stop by Artichoke Music in Portland and pick up some real guitar strings for Crispin’s guitar. Dick’s brother was about to visit Zimbabwe and could deliver the strings.

So Wendy went to see Steve Einhorn, who owns Artichoke Music with his wife, Kate Power.

For the uninitiated, Artichoke Music is a retail store that sells musical instruments. “But it’s also about the music,” says Steve. “We need the retail business to pay for the teaching we do and for the performance space in the back. It’s very important that we continue making music.”

Wendy described Crispin’s guitar and asked about guitar strings. Steve Einhorn responded, “Sure, we have guitar strings. But would he rather have a real guitar?”

A new shipment of Godin guitars had just arrived. “Their guitars are our bread and butter,” says Steve. “We sell hundreds of them…and they’re beautiful.”

Wendy called Dick in Zimbabwe, and he talked to his Zimbabwean associate, John. Would it cause a problem in the community if Crispin had a nice guitar? Would it get stolen? John thought it was a good idea.

Steve picked out a beautiful blue acoustic guitar, put it in a case and tossed in guitar strings, and Dick’s brother carried them to Africa.

“We drove down these ravines and tracks … to Crispin’s homestead,” say Dick. “John said to him some wonderful and wise words” about the need for Crispin to obey his father, continue his commitment to his studies and care for his younger siblings.

Then they opened the case and handed Crispin his new guitar. “He was stunned,” says Dick. “It was just the most wonderful thing. Crispin started playing. His friend, Tatenda, took out sticks and started using the guitar case as a drum.” Crispin put on an Artichoke Music T-shirt; Dick took pictures of him with his new guitar.

And then Dick asked if Crispin would consider giving his handmade guitar to Steve Einhorn in gratitude. “You could see in his eyes there was no question,” say Dick. “He was delighted to have this guitar and delighted to give up the other one.”

So that’s how Crispin Mungure’s guitar ended up on the wall at Artichoke Music, in Portland’s Hawthorne district. “We deal with a lot of gearheads who have a lot of money, and they’ve been on the Internet and have learned everything there is to know about everything there is to know,” says Steve. “How to emphasize this, how to get rid of feedback – and they’re not playing music.”

“This kid wanted to play music and he’s very poor, so he made himself a guitar.” Steve’s customers ask about the rusted, rough-looking contraption: “Everyone is so moved by it, so taken by it.” Steve says the guitar “is a symbol of what it’s really all about; making and performing music. It’s a reminder. It’s a charm.”

Margie Boule – The Oregonian