7 of the best Left Handed Folk Guitarists

The Gipsy Kings

In this article we highlight 7 of the very best left handed folk guitarists in the world.

The Gipsy Kings

Cesar Rosas

Cesar Rosas is one-half of the legendary group Los Lobos’, and is known as one of the great left-handed guitarists to grace the music scene. Los Lobos’ (Spanish for “the Wolves”) is a multiple Grammy Award–winning American rock band from East Los Angeles. Their music is influenced by rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros and norteños. They gained international stardom in 1987, when their cover of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” topped the charts in the U.S., the UK and several other countries.

Though his choice of guitar has changed over the years, he usually has a traditional setup, with the low E string on top. Rosas previously used a Gibson 335, though these days he prefers Alhambra instruments. Just last year, the singer-songwriter-guitarist released the recording of his solo album, “Live From the Galaxy,” a live performance that happened in 1999 in Orange County, following the release of his first solo album the year before, called “Soul Disguise.” According to Rosas, he had recorded several sets in various places, but the set in the Galaxy Theatre “all seemed to work,” from the technical part to the vibe.

Rosas has been involved with Los Lobos’ group projects as well as his own solo career, throughout which his skill in playing the guitar has been a highlight. In the track “Little Heaven,” Rosas’ skill as a composer is seen alongside Leroy Preston’s, resulting in a track that is a “propulsive rocker in the mainstream mold,” according to LA Times. “Live From the Galaxy” features eight original tracks, with three covers to make up the 11-track set. Rosas showcases his skills further in his own rendition of “Hip Hug-Her,” “You’ve Got to Lose,” and “She’s About a Mover.”

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Nicolas, Andrei, and Patchai Reyes, and Diego Baliardo – The Gipsy Kings

The Gipsy Kings perhaps hold the record for the band with the most number of left-handed guitarists, with brothers Nicolas, Andrei and Patchai Reyes all playing their guitars strung upside down. Diego Baliardo, of the Baliardo brothers that comprise the other half of the ensemble, also uses a left-handed guitar as his musical instrument of choice.

The Gipsy Kings are a group of flamenco, salsa and pop musicians from Arles and Montpellier in the south of France, who perform in the Spanish language with an Andalusian accent. Although group members were born in France, their parents were mostly gitanos, Berber-Moroccan and Spanish gypsies who fled Catalonia during the 1930s Spanish Civil War. They are known for bringing Catalan rumba, a pop-oriented music distantly derived from traditional flamenco music, to worldwide audiences.

Their music has a particular rumba flamenca style, with pop influences; many songs of the Gipsy Kings fit social dances, such as salsa and rumba. Their music has been described as a place where “Spanish flamenco and gypsy rhapsody meet salsa funk”

The website last.fm noted that the Reyes brothers’ guitar set-up is commonly seen in musicians who did not have their own left-handed guitar when growing up, despite the Reyes and Baliardo families being related to great musicians. For the talented brothers, the only way to learn was to borrow someone else’s guitar, and with the majority of guitars produced being right-handed, they had learned to restring the guitar upside down to play comfortably.

This did not stop them from becoming the world’s best-selling music group from France, with records such as “The Best of the Gypsy Kings” going platinum and staying on the charts for a year. Their albums, “Volare! – the Very Best of the Gypsy Kings,” “Cantos de Amor,” “Tierra Gitana,” “Love & Liberte,” “Gypsy Kings Live,” and “Este Mundo” also went gold. “Love and Liberte,” released in 1993, also won the Latin Grammy Award for the Best Pop Album of the Year.

The Gypsy Kings are known for testing the waters with a new style, with purists initially criticizing them for their use of electronic bass, electronic keyboards, and drum kits. Eventually, they were credited for their genius in trying to create a new style, with rock and reggae beat incorporated into their music.

Check out the Gypsy Kings on Amazon

Eric Bogle

Eric Bogle (born 23 September 1944) is popular for his music, not for his choice of guitar. Though many forget that he is left-handed, his anti-war songs are timeless classics that have cemented his name in the industry. Bogle, who is an adept singer and songwriter, as well as a left handed folk guitarist, left Scotland to live in Australia, where his eyes were opened to the world of war, eventually writing a song referencing the umpteen wars Australia has been involved in.

Bogle’s songs have covered a variety of topics, many of them have been covered by other artists. Two of his best known songs are “No Man’s Land” (or “The Green Fields of France”) and “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, with the latter being named one of the APRA Top 30 Australian songs in 2001, as part of the celebrations for the Australasian Performing Right Association’s 75th anniversary.

Bogle’s songs are anti-war anthems, with many considering his tunes as the anthems of World War I. The mistake is not hard to make, what with The Fureys covering his song “No Man’s Land” as “The Green Fields of France,” among others. Bogle does not seem to mind, as he takes delight in his songs being sung, paying no particular attention to who was doing the singing.

Eric Bogle finds fascination in the misconceptions circling his name: some say the musician in his seventies has died in the First World War. Though he now focuses on songwriting, he is not without his companion instrument, the guitar, in creating music that fits the mainstream genre of folk music and expresses important issues about the world we currently live in. Bogle, who was struck by a visit to Flanders in 1975 and how young the casualties of war can be, says he would be happy to stay in his office writing songs for the rest of his life.

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Sheila Carabine

Sheila Carabine makes up half of Dala, and in 2016 she released her solo material, “All In.”

As part of the Canadian  acoustic-folk duo Dala, with Amanda Walther, Carabine showcased her musical talent predominantly in the North American indie and folk music scene, with more than a decade’s worth of touring and recording. Hailing from Toronto, Carabine pays tribute to her Irish roots in her breakthrough album. She has featured the drummer Gary Craig, cellist Kevin Fox, electric guitarist Jerome Herbert, and the vocal harmonies provided by the other half of Dala, Amanda Walther. Left handed folk guitarist Carabine and her solo work is a testament to how welcoming and tight-knit the music industry is, with one artist collaborating with another to produce songs immortalized by their talent. Carabine makes her own mark as one of the well-known left-handed female guitarists to make it in this generation. She is an inspiration to younger left handed guitarists aspiring to make it big in the industry someday.

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